The scent of E. coli: prospects for a field early warning system for increased food safety in leafy vegetables

Last changed: 25 October 2023

Consumption of vegetables and fruits is often associated to a healthy diet and lifestyle. Ready-to-eat (RTE) cut leaves and fruits have become a favored and convenient plant-based product. However, during recent years, the number of food illness outbreaks related to vegetables and fruits has increased substantially.

The contaminants can be transmitted along the entire food system, from farm to fork. Their distribution is patchy, both in the crop stand (field) and on the individual leaves. It cannot be ensured that contamination occuring early on in the production chain during primary production is eraded at a later stage of production through processing as these produces are meant to be eaten raw. The contaminants can survive both on the leaf surface, but also hide inside the leaf, and be inaccessible for common kitchen practices, such as rinsing. Another obstacle is that food illness outbreaks often first become evident, when the produce batch is already eaten – this of course impedes with contaminant trace back. Our goal is to create conditions for hygienically safe field grown leafy vegetables. Within the context of this project we create a basis for an early warning system.


The project is funded by: Carl Trygger Foundation

Duration of the project: 2016-2017

Principal Investigator: Beatrix Alsanius

Other contributors: Marie Bengtsson, Sofia Windstam