Send to

Choose Destination
J Food Prot. 2013 Aug;76(8):1421-8. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-12-371.

Swabs as a tool for monitoring the presence of norovirus on environmental surfaces in the food industry.

Author information

Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, P.O. Box 66, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Human norovirus (HuNoV), which causes gastroenteritis, can be transmitted to food and food contact surfaces via viruscontaminated hands. To investigate this transmission in food processing environments, we developed a swabbing protocol for environmental samples, evaluated the stability of HuNoV in the swabs, and applied the method in the food industry. Swabs made of polyester, flocked nylon, cotton wool, and microfiber were moistened in either phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) or glycine buffer (pH 9.5) and used to swab four surfaces (latex, plastic, stainless steel, and cucumber) inoculated with HuNoV. HuNoV was eluted with either PBS or glycine buffer and detected with quantitative reverse transcription PCR. HuNoV recoveries were generally higher with an inoculation dose of 100 PCR units than 1,000 PCR units. The highest recoveries were obtained when surfaces were swabbed with microfiber cloth moistened in and eluted with glycine buffer after a HuNoV inoculation dose of 100 PCR units: 66% ± 18% on latex, 89% ±2% on plastic, and 79% ±10% on stainless steel. The highest recovery for cucumber, 45% ±5%, was obtained when swabbing the surface with microfiber cloth and PBS. The stability of HuNoV was tested in microfiber cloths moistened in PBS or glycine buffer. HuNoV RNA was detected from swabs after 3 days at 4 and 22°C, although the RNA levels decreased more rapidly in swabs moistened with glycine buffer than in those moistened with PBS at 22°C. In the field study, 172 microfiber and 45 cotton wool swab samples were taken from environmental surfaces at three food processing companies. Five (5.6%) of 90 swabs collected in 2010 and 7 (8.5%) of 82 swabs collected in 2012 were positive for HuNoV genogroup II; all positive samples were collected with microfiber swabs. Three positive results were obtained from the production line and nine were obtained from the food workers' break room and restroom areas. Swabbing is a powerful tool for HuNoV RNA detection from environmental surfaces and enables investigation of virus transmission during food processing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center