Hong Kong’s wet markets play a crucial role in the country’s supply of safe, fresh meat to satisfy the dietary needs of its population. Whilst food safety regulations have been introduced over the past few years to maintain the microbial safety of foods sold from these wet markets, it remains unclear whether the hygiene maintenance that is performed on the wooden cutting boards used for meat-processing is effective. In fact, hygiene maintenance may often be overlooked, and hygiene standards may be insufficient. If so, this may lead to the spread of harmful pathogens through cross-contamination, thereby causing severe risks to public health. The aim of this study was to determine the level of microbial transfer between wooden cutting boards and swine meat of various qualities, using 16S metagenomic sequencing, strain identification and biofilm screening of isolated strains. The results established that: (a) the traditional hygiene practices used for cleaning wooden cutting boards in Hong Kong’s wet markets expose the surfaces to potentially harmful microorganisms; (b) the processing of microbially contaminated meat on cutting boards cleaned using traditional practices leads to cross-contamination; and (c) several potentially pathogenic microorganisms found on the cutting boards have good biofilm-forming abilities. These results reinforce the need to review the traditional methods used to clean wooden cutting boards after the processing of raw meat in Hong Kong’ wet markets so as to prevent cross-contamination events. The establishment of proper hygiene protocols may reduce the spread of disease-causing microorganisms (including antibiotic-resistant microorganisms) in food-processing environments.
- Foodborne pathogens
- Hong Kong’s wet markets
- Traditional hygiene practices
- Wooden cutting board