Microbial contamination of contact surfaces at eating houses in Nsukka, southeast, Nigeria
A study of five highly patronized eating houses in a university community was conducted to assess the microbiological quality of some food contact and non-food contact surfaces in order to determine the effectiveness of cleaning and sanitization procedures within the eating houses. Samples were taken at lunch period on three different occasions. Bacterial aerobic plate counts (APC) of the sampled surfaces were determined using standard microbiological swabbing methods. The predominant bacterial contaminants were isolated, characterized and identified as E. coli, S. aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus spp., Salmonella spp. and Micrococcus spp., while the fungal isolates were Candida albicans, Aspergillus spp., Penicillium spp., Mucor spp. and Fusarium spp. The isolates E. coli, S. aureus and Aspergillus spp. were detected in all the eating houses while the eating house designated FT harbored all the predominant bacterial isolates. Of the bacterial isolates, S. aureus was the most encountered with a frequency occurrence of 31.1% while Aspergillus spp. were the fungi encountered most with a frequency of 39.3%. The findings of this study demonstrated that the extent of microbial contamination was dependent on the eating house and the surface sampled. While no direct correlation between contamination and illness can
be made, given the high risk of food-borne illness associated with eating houses, microbial contamination of food contact or non-food contact surfaces is an aspect of food safety that requires more attention. Emphasis on training and the development of standard sanitation operating procedures for eating houses are needed to reduce potential hazards.
Keywords: Eating house, contact surface, food safety, hygiene, infections, pathogens