Fungal Contamination of Ready-to-Eat Cooked foods in Catering Establishments in the University of Jos Community
Fungi are ubiquitous and are found in a variety of habitats, either as transient or permanent dwellers. They grow in a wide range of substrates which may serve as vehicles for their spread to various other environments, including the human body. Ready-to-eat foods are those foods that are eaten without washing, cooking or additional processing by the food establishment or the consumer. With the withdrawal of catering services to university students by the Federal Government of Nigeria (in the mid 1980s), majority of the students have depended on the food service establishments and other food vendors within and around the university campuses for their daily meals. A total of 222 cooked food samples (rice, beans, spaghetti, eba (a solid food prepared from fried fermented cassava mash), plantain, moimoi (beans pudding), pounded yam, semovita and various soups) were examined from 25 food service establishments serving the University of Jos community. Sample collection was between 12 noon and 2 p.m. for a period of six months. The food service establishments were also assessed in terms of sanitation of premises, food preparation and storage facilities and standard of personnel. Fungi were isolated from 138 (62.0%) of these samples. Okro soup (90.5%), followed by pounded yam (81.2%), jollof rice (70.0%) and beans (61.1%) had the highest fungal contamination. The predominant fungi were Aspergillus niger (20.0%) and A. flavus (18.7%). Other important fungi isolated included Mucor indicus (17.0%), Rhizopus orhizae (8.0%), Penicillium spp. (6.5%), Rhizopus microsporus (4.6%), Fusarium moniliforme (4.0%), Geotrichum candidum (4.0%) and Aspergillus fumigatus (3.3%). The food serving centers were categorized into A, B and C, comprising those within the main campus, those in the students' hostels and those outside (but within close vicinity of the main campus), respectively. There was significant correlation between the zones of food establishment and the occurrence of fungal pathogens. The possible effects of contamination of ready-to-eat foods by these fungal pathogens are discussed.
The Journal of Medicine in the Tropics Vol. 9 (1) 2007: pp. 29-36