Foodborne illness continues to cause significant morbidity and mortality both nationally and internationally. Protecting the human host from exposure to foodborne pathogens and reducing the incidence of foodborne illness are the central goals of established national food safety intervention program. Foodborne illness is a reportable disease in the State of Qatar. Protecting the food supply from the microbial risk of known foodborne pathogens is critical to national food security; particularly in the State of Qatar where the population has a high level of dependence on imported food.

There are many surveillance activities utilized by local public health officials targeted at mitigating the risk associated with foodborne illness and improving food security. A risk based method of sampling high risk ready to eat foods in the State of Qatar is one such activity to monitor the distribution and incidence of hygiene indicators and pathogens in our food supply. Three common retail hypermarkets were chosen with high risk ready to eat foods items identified for inclusion in the study

The aims of this paper are ;-To perform baseline surveillance of Ready to Eat Foods at the retail level in the State of Qatar. To identify ready to eat foods (RTE) which may pose a greater risk to the population in acquiring foodborne illness. To determine if gaps exist in the food safety surveillance system related to public health and hygiene.

Sample collection was conducted at three retail hypermarkets in the State of Qatar over a one year period. The laboratory will utilize a variety of wet laboratory procedures - pre-enrichment, enrichment, selective isolation and confirmatory microbiological procedures according to the National Health Authority Central Laboratories-Microbiological Analytical Manual-1st Ed., 2008 on all food samples analyzed. All samples analyzed by the Central Food Laboratory were done in duplicate.

There are no significant common foodborne pathogens infecting High Risk Ready to Eat foods from identified retail hypermarkets in the State of Qatar(E. coli 0157:H7, B. cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Vibrio parahaemolyticus).

There is a statistical difference in levels of hygiene indicators (Enterobacteriaceae, SPC) by retail store location.


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