Tomato brown rugose fruit virus: Outbreak management and reporting

Find out when this virus first appeared internationally and in the UK, and what to do in the event of a suspected new outbreak. 

Please note that this information will not be updated beyond March 2023

Read more about Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus


Since 2019 there have been several outbreaks of ToBRFV on commercial tomato production sites in England. The first outbreak took place in 2019, which has now been declared as eradicated, following the implementation of eradication measures and subsequent inspection and testing.

In the UK, ToBRFV has also been intercepted on imported tomato and pepper seed, and on imported fruit destined for retail.

How were the outbreaks reported?

The outbreaks were promptly reported to the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) and necessary steps were taken towards virus eradication.

Propagators and growers are advised to review their production protocols, particularly regarding imports of seed and plants, and crop hygiene, to help mitigate against the further spread of this virus.

How has the virus spread?

After ToBRFV was first described from tomato crops in Israel in 2014, the virus spread in tomato greenhouses almost nationwide within the period of one year after the first outbreak reports. The virus has since been reported in tomato and sweet pepper crops around the world, including Jordan, Mexico, Italy, Greece and the Netherlands.

For UK updates of outbreaks, visit the Defra Plant Health Portal

For up-to-date information on international outbreaks of this virus, visit the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) global database

To receive monthly outbreak updates, visit EPPO’s reporting service to subscribe to the mailing list.

What to do in the event of a suspected outbreak

The main advice is to implement good hygiene measures as a matter of course; be vigilant for any unusual symptoms in the crop, and report any symptoms to a manager, if suspected.

It is a statutory requirement that any suspected outbreaks of a notifiable viroid or virus in a tomato or pepper crop, or any other non-native plant pest, are reported to the relevant authority:

  • For England and Wales, contact your local APHA Plant Health and Seeds inspector or
  • For Scotland, contact the Scottish Government’s Horticulture and Marketing Unit:
  • For Northern Ireland, contact the DAERA Plant Health Inspection Branch:

ToBRFV legislation

For the latest information and guidance on ToBRFV legislation please refer to the links below or contact Defra's plant health portal directly:

Defra plant health portal – ToBRFV legislation update

Import requirements for seeds of Solanum lycopersicum and Capsicum spp.

EU amendment to allow the importation of seed from third countries stored prior to 15 August 2020

Generic contingency plan for plant and bee health in England

Precautions taken by plant health inspectors

When plant health inspectors from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) visit an uninfected tomato or capsicum nursery, there are standard operating procedures for biosecurity, which they should abide by.

As minimum precautionary measures, inspectors must:

  • Not have visited any nursery infected with ToBRFV in the past four weeks
  • Not have visited another tomato/pepper production nursery or tomato/pepper packhouse, or conducted inspections of these fruit at import or wholesale sites in the last week
  • Ensure that the visit is the first visit of the working day
  • Arrive on site in a clean car and freshly laundered clothes
  • Change into new disposable overall, overshoes and gloves before entering any production areas. If the nursery has more than one glasshouse to be inspected, these should be changed for new protected clothing between houses
  • Only take essential sampling equipment onto site, i.e. new sample bags, tubes, marker pen, clean hand lens and sterilised knife
  • Clean mobile phone with an alcohol wipe/gel prior to entry
  • Try not to touch plants directly
  • Adhere to any reasonable hygiene requirements being operated by the site, e.g. use of foot dips, replacing gloves between houses, etc.
  • Not have fresh tomatoes in their packed lunch/sandwiches when undertaking this work

Additional measures will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

UK Plant Health links

Visit the UK Plant Health Risk Register

Defra’s Plant Health Portal

ToBRFV Defra contingency plan

Government guidance on plant health controls

Scottish Government’s plant health policy

Northern Ireland’s Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs