Finnish carrots are safe to eat


<div>The food poisoning epidemics (Yersinia pseudotuberculosis) caused by Finnish vegetables, especially carrots and grated carrot have raised concerns about the safety of eating carrots. According to a study done by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira the occurrence of disease causing yersinia in carrots is not common. </div>

The quality of Finnish carrots has been examined on farms growing carrots, in carrot processing plants and in retail businesses during 2005-2007 in two separate projects. In the examined carrots no disease causing pathogenic yersinia bacteria (Yersinia enterocolitica and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis) were found during the whole period of the projects. The studies confirm that the occurrence of pathogenic yersinia in carrots is not common.

The aim is to improve the quality of the vegetables
The aim of the project “Vihannesten kuluttajalaadun parantaminen - esimerkkinä porkkana” (Improving the consumer quality of vegetables – carrots as an example) that was started in 2005 is to improve the consumer quality of carrots, reduce risks that threaten the quality, and to acquire information by the help of which the monitoring functions can be directed correctly.

As a part of the joint project of MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Evira and the National Consumer Research Centre, the occurrence of disease causing bacteria was studied at Evira, especially the occurrence of Y. pseudotuberculosis - and Y. enterocolitica in carrots.

During the autumn of 2005 carrots from 18 farms were examined immediately after the harvest and twice during storage. The following autumn carrot samples from the same farms were examined immediately after the harvest and at the end of the storage period. In the samples, no bacteria of the disease-causing types Y. pseudotuberculosis or Y. enterocolitica were found.  They were not found in any of the 96 carrot samples taken from retail businesses during 2005-2007. The project will end next year.

Yersinia bacteria were not found in vegetable processing plants
The occurrences of the disease causing bacteria Y. enterocolitica or Y. pseudotuberculosis were also looked for in vegetable processing plants. The microbiological safety of vegetables was tested by checking the in-house control of the business, by taking samples and by performing microbiological tests on the vegetables. The samples were taken from businesses subjected to municipal controls.

The disease-causing bacteria Y. enterocolitica or Y. pseudotuberculosis were not found in the study. Most of the examined vegetable processing businesses had functioning in-house controls. According to the inspectors’ own findings the in-house control functioned well or very well in three quarters of the businesses. A summary of the results from the project can be found in Finnish on Evira’s Internet pages at the address:> Elintarvikkeet> Valvonta ja yrittajat> Tutkimukset ja projektit> Yhteenveto 2005-2006 yersiniaprojekti

The Yersinia bacterium can not be totally prevented from occurring because it can be transferred to vegetables from the soil during cultivation and harvesting. Because the bacterium also grows in the cold and anaerobically without oxygen, it can increase during long storage periods and in inert gas or vacuum-packed products. Evira recommends that even Finnish vegetables always should be washed carefully and that root vegetables should be peeled before they are used.

For additional information, please contact:
Researcher Marjaana Hakkinen, Microbiology Unit, tel. 020 77 24471, improvement of the consumer quality of vegetables
Senior Officer Taina Niskanen, Food Hygiene Unit, tel. 020 77 24318, the occurrence of yersinia bacteria in Finnish vegetables

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