Foodborne illness is considered as one of the most important public health problems, especially in developing countries like Ethiopia. This study aimed to assess the microbiological quality and safety of ready-to-eat foods in Yirgalem town, Southern Ethiopia, from November 2016 to August 2017. A total of 160 food samples, including 40 'Injera firfir', 40 'Bayeaynet', 40 Vegetables and 40 spaghetti were collected and investigated following standard microbiological methods. One ml of food homogenate was added to 9 ml of 0.85% sterile saline in a test tube and serially diluted to 10-7 and an aliquot volume of 0.1 ml was spread in pre-solidified media of Aerobic Plate count Agar, MacConkey Agar, Mannitol Salt Agar and Salmonella-Shigella Agar and incubated at 35-37oc for 24 hours. The collected data was entered into Microsoft Excel and analyzed with SPSS software version 20. All food samples collected were subjected to total aerobic mesophilic bacteria, coliform bacteria, enterobacteraceae, and staphylococcal counts. Subsequently, the mean counts expressed as log10 CFU/g for each group of microbes were 7.90 ± 0.71, 4.31 ± 1.30, 4.32 ± 1.30 and 6.70 ± 0.34, respectively. The highest bacterial load 162 (28.9%) was detected in "Injera firfir", while the lowest case 108 (19.2%) was detected in Spaghetti. Regarding food safety issue, the prevalence of S. aureus, E. coli and Salmonella spp in food samples was 54.4%, 43.8% and 0.6%, respectively. The high microbial load and the presence of foodborne pathogens in ready-to-eat foods in Yirgalem town, Southern Ethiopia is call for raising awareness among restaurant and food establishment owners and food handlers with respect to hygiene practice.
Keywords: Microbial quality, Yirgalem town, Southern Ethiopia