Fresh produce has been repeatedly implicated as the source of human viral infections, including infection with hepatitis A virus (HAV). The objective of the present study was to evaluate the HAV adsorption capacity of the surface of various fresh vegetables that are generally eaten raw and the persistence of the HAV. To this end, the authors experimentally contaminated samples of lettuce, fennel, and carrot by immersing them in sterile distilled water supplemented with an HAV suspension until reaching a concentration of 5 log tissue culture infectious dose (TCID50)/ml. After contamination, the samples were stored at 4 degrees C and analysed at 0, 2, 4, 7, and 9 days. To detect the HAV, RT-nested-PCR was used; positive samples were subjected to the quantitative determination using cell cultures. The three vegetables differed in terms of their adsorption capacity. The highest quantity of virus was consistently detected for lettuce, for which only a slight decrease was observed over time (HAV titre = 4.44 +/- 0.22 log TCID50/ml at day 0 vs. 2.46 +/- 0.17 log TCID50/ml at day 9, before washing). The virus remained vital through the last day of storage. For the other two vegetables, a greater decrease was observed, and complete inactivation had occurred at day 4 for carrot and at day 7 for fennel. For all three vegetables, washing does not guarantee a substantial reduction in the viral contamination.