Berries have repeatedly been associated with outbreaks of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection. The fruits are usually minimally processed in the food industry due to their delicate nature. While washing treatments partially remove enteric viruses, the commonly used chemical additives produce toxic by-products. A valid alternative to preserve the food safety of these products could be the use of essential oils (EOs). EOs exert antimicrobial activity and do not interfere with the nutritional characteristics of food products. We investigated the efficacy of four essential oils, lemon (Citrus limon), sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), and rosemary cineole (Rosmarinus officinalis chemotype 1.8 cineole) in reducing viral loads of HAV in soft fruits. Mixed fruit berries were inoculated with 106.74 TCID50/ml of HAV, and treated with four different EOs (0.5% lemon, 0.1% sweet orange and grapefruit, and 0.05% rosemary) for 1 h at room temperature. Virus infectivity was then assessed by titration assays for its ability to grow on cell cultures. A statistically significant reduction in HAV titer on the fruit surface was observed after treating the berries with EOs of lemon (2.84 log TCID50/ml), grapefruit (2.89 log TCID50/ml), and rosemary cineole (2.94 log TCID50/ml). Rosemary cineole was the most effective EO in reducing viral titer on berries, followed by grapefruit EO. These results improve our knowledge about the antiviral activity of these EOs and highlight their potential use in fresh produce sanitation.
Keywords: Berries; Essential oils; Hepatitis A virus; Inactivation.