PhD Food Science student won International Award

Posted on September 12, 2014

Mr Matthew Aijuka, A Ph.D Food Science student of the department of Food Science, University of Pretoria was a prize winner of the IUFoST’s Food safety beyond borders graduate scientific paper competition. The award was presented during the 17th World Congress of Food Science and Technology & Expo of the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) held in Montreal, Canada from 17 – 21 August, 2014.

The competition was entered by graduate students, whose work involved issues relating to food safety, tackling a local/indegenous food within their home country and also having international implications. Students were asked to submit abstract under the guidance of their study supervisor and shortlisted candidates later submitted full-length paper (2600 words) together with possible interventions on how to solve the problem at hand. His paper, “Irrigation water as a source of antibiotic resistant and pathogenic E. coli on irrigated lettuce” co-authored with his supervisor, Professor Elna M. Buys was selected for the competition. 

In their study, E. coli was isolated from an irrigation water source in South Africa and lettuce irrigated with this water. Results from the study showed high resistance among E. coli from both sources to the antibiotics ampicillin and cephalothin and potential pathogenicity (virulence genes (shigatoxins 1 and 2 and intimin)). Additionally, a genotypic fingerprinting technique (GTG) 5-Rep-PCR was used to determine the genetic relatedness among E. coli in irrigation water and irrigated lettuce in a bid to determine cross over contamination. Close relatedness was noted among some E. coli from both sources indicating cross-over contamination. This work suggested that irrigation water in South Africa harboured antibiotic resistant and potentially pathogenic E. coli which could later contaminate irrigated fresh produce, hence compromising food safety and public health. Finally, the paper suggested that if food safety and  public health were to be achieved not only in South Africa but around the world, there was a need for free-flow of information and collaboration among the various stakeholder groups such as Government ministries, Universities and Private Sector. 

This study was part of an on-going solicited research project (K5/1875/4) funded by the Water Research Commission and co-funded with the Department of Agriculture, Republic of South Africa.


- Author Food Science

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