Microbial contamination of fruit juices has caused major outbreaks, leading to significant morbidity and mortality in developing countries. The inept hygiene and safety practices followed by the juice vendors are the leading risk factors of the microbial contamination of juices. In this pilot study, the five most crowded markets in urban Delhi, including Kamla Nagar, University of Delhi (north campus), Tilak Nagar, Chandni Chowk, and Rohini, were selected for a questionnaire survey on the fruit juice vendors and the sampling of water used for juice preparation as well as sugarcane, orange, and mix fruit juices collected from these markets for the enumeration of total bacterial count (TBC), Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Vibrio. Antibiotic susceptibility tests were performed using ampicillin, cefotaxime, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, and imipenem. The results indicated that the majority of the vendors were not following hygiene and safety practices when compared with the recommended standard safety practices. The use of municipal water by 95% of vendors with high TBC counts might have been the major source of microbial contamination in all types of fruit juices. E. coli and Salmonella contaminations were high in sugarcane (2 × 105 colony forming units (CFU)/mL) and mix fruit (2.2 × 105 CFU/mL) juice samples, respectively. On the other hand, Vibrio was found to be absent in almost all juice samples except for orange juice. All strains were found to be susceptible to chloramphenicol, but resistant to ampicillin and cefotaxime. Only a few strains were resistant to ciprofloxacin, and only E. coli strains were resistant to imipenem. Taken together, the overall microbiological standards of fruit juices served by street vendors were not within the acceptable limits, perhaps due to the poor quality of water used to prepare juices and poor hygiene and safety practices followed by the vendors. More importantly, the isolated microbes demonstrated resistance to ampicillin and cefotaxime, which may have pressing public health implications. Post hoc power analyses identified the minimum sample size required for 80% power.
Keywords: E. coli; Salmonella; Vibrio; antimicrobial resistance; fruit juice; hygiene.