New research published in the Journal of Food Protection shows that fruit flies are capable of spreading illness—inducing bacterial pathogens to both food and food preparation surfaces. Prior to the study, fruit flies were simply viewed as a nuisance at food-handling establishments.
The study was the first to demonstrate that fruit flies can transfer E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria to surfaces and relocate bacteria from a contaminated source to fresh, ready-to-eat food. “The results weren’t that surprising, however, knowing that common vermin such as house flies, cockroaches, and rodents are known to carry and transfer disease pathogens,” says John Barcay, PhD, one of the senior scientists at Ecolab Inc. in Eagan, Minn., who conducted the study.
Fruit flies can enter establishments in deliveries of food items, especially fruits and vegetables and from the outdoors in warmer climates. They are particularly attracted to yeast, alcohol, and vinegar odors. Ecolab’s data indicates that fruit flies are present in more than 50 percent of all North American restaurants.
The most important part of fruit fly control is finding the source of the adult flies—meaning the organic matter where their larvae are feeding and developing, says Angela Tucker, PhD, manager, technical services, Terminix International Co., LP, Memphis, Tenn. If an adult population is large, a health inspector might fine the facility.
About Karen Appold
Karen Appold is an award-winning journalist based in Lehigh Valley, Pa. She has a BA in English (writing) from Penn State University and has more than 20 years of editorial experience. Karen has been a full-time freelance medical writer and editor since 2003. She works for various medical organizations, businesses, and media. Karen has also worked in a variety capacities, including newspaper reporter, editor of a daily newspaper, and editor of a monthly magazine. Reach her at email@example.com.