Gastrointestinal carriage of Klebsiella pneumoniae is a predisposing factor for liver abscess in several Asian countries. To determine whether hypervirulent K. pneumoniae in the gut may be transmitted through food, we screened a range of raw and ready-to-eat (RTE) retail food by culture and recovered K. pneumoniae in 21% (147/698) of samples tested. Based on polymerase chain reactions (PCR), no K. pneumoniae isolates carried the rmpA gene linked to community-acquired pyogenic liver abscess, providing no evidence of a link between food and the liver disease. However, phenotypic resistance to multiple antibiotic classes was seen through disk diffusion tests and carriage of genetic elements ( wcaG , capsule types K1, K2, K54) associated with increased virulence (8%, 11/147) were observed by PCRs. Multidrug-resistant (MDR) isolates were from raw vegetables, chicken/pork livers, and a RTE poultry dish; one MDR K. pneumoniae isolate from raw beansprouts was resistant to a 3rd generation cephalosporin (ceftriaxone). While K. pneumoniae may be present in food without causing harm, we found isolates belonging to the K1 capsular serotype co-existing with the wcaG gene, once also conferring multidrug resistance. K. pneumoniae that carry antibiotic resistance genes, regardless of pathogenicity, may increase the available genetic pool of resistance along the food chain. Hygienic food handling practices are necessary to lower risks of acquiring K. pneumoniae and other opportunistic pathogens.
ABSTRACT Food handlers play an important role in retail food hygiene and safety. This study was conducted to better understand the impact of food handlers on the microbiological quality and safety of sushi and ingredients handled by gloved and bare hands. At retail premises, food handlers were asked to prepare a batch of sushi with raw fish followed by a batch of sushi with cooked ingredients. Food (sushi and ready-to-eat ingredients), hand, and glove samples were collected for analysis of overall microorganisms (standard plate counts) and targeted foodborne bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes . Results suggested that cross-contamination was more prevalent at premises where bare hands were used to prepare sushi. When bare hands were used, significantly higher standard plate counts were obtained from samples of cooked rice (2.3 to 4.9 log CFU/g) and sushi (2.8 to 6.9 log CFU/g) and the prevalence of S. aureus in samples was higher on food (21.7%, 28 of 129 samples) and hands (30%, 18 of 60 samples) ( P < 0.05). Glove changing in combination with hand washing minimized cross-contamination during sushi preparation as indicated by the lower prevalence of S. aureus (0%, 0 of 28 samples) and total targeted foodborne bacteria (3.6%, 1 of 28 samples) on the gloves of food handlers who changed gloves and washed their hands compared with those handlers who did not don new gloves. Repeated use of dishcloths could be a cause of cross-contamination, and the prevalence of total targeted foodborne bacteria was significantly higher on hands dried with dishcloths (64.7%, 11 of 17 samples) than on hands dried with paper towels (12.5%, 1 of 8 samples) ( P < 0.05). The prevalences of B. cereus, L. monocytogenes, and Salmonella in the 356 food samples were 5.1% (18 samples), 0.8% (3 samples), and 0%, respectively. Improvements to hand washing, hand drying, and glove changing practices are needed to lower the occurrence of cross-contamination during sushi preparation.