October 27, 2022

Microbial Contamination in the Coffee Industry: An Occupational Menace besides a Food Safety Concern?

VC Viegas et al, 2022. Microbial Contamination in the Coffee Industry: An Occupational Menace besides a Food Safety Concern? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Volume 19 (20).

Respiratory abnormalities among workers at coffee roasting and packaging facilities have already been reported; however, little is known about microbiological contamination inside coffee production facilities. This study intends to assess the microbial contamination (fungi and bacteria) in two coffee industries from Brazil with a multi-approach protocol for sampling and for subsequent analyses using four main sources of samples: filtering respiratory protection devices (FRPD) used by workers, settled dust, electrostatic dust cloths (EDC) and coffee beans. The fungal contamination in the assessed industries was also characterized through the molecular detection of toxigenic species and antifungal resistance. Total bacteria contamination presented the highest values in FRPD collected from both industries (7.45 × 104 CFU·m-2; 1.09 × 104 CFU·m-2). Aspergillus genera was widespread in all the environmental samples collected and sections with clinical relevance (Fumigati) and with toxigenic potential (Nigri and Circumdati) were recovered from FRPD. Circumdati section was observed in 4 mg/mL itraconazole. Sections Circumdati (EDC, coffee beans and settled dust) and Nidulantes (EDC, coffee beans and FRPD) were detected by qPCR. Some of the targeted Aspergillus sections that have been identified microscopically were not detected by qPCR and vice-versa. Overall, this study revealed that microbial contamination is a potential occupational risk in the milling stage and should be tackled when assessing exposure and performing risk assessment. In addition, a multi-sampling campaign should be the approach to follow when assessing microbial contamination and FRPD should be included in this campaign. Occupational exposure to mycotoxins should be considered due to high fungal diversity and contamination. A One Health approach should address these issues in order to prevent consumption of coffee crops and beans infected by fungi and, more specifically, to avoid widespread azole resistance.

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