to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, a person is seven times likelier to die
from listeriosis after eating deli meat prepared by a retailer than by a
federal plant. This is the reason that the agency plans to place additional
focus on retail stores.
past 20 years, the meat industry has invested in technologies for improved
control of Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) on food contact
surfaces, in the air and throughout the overall plant environment. USDA’s
statistic on the increased risk associated with deli prepared products
demonstrates the need to transfer some of the food safety technologies that
have been implemented in RTE meat processing and cheese manufacturing
facilities into retail food stores and delis.
How can we lower the food safety risk at
retailers should assure that suppliers of RTE meat and poultry products
utilize technologies that prevent the outgrowth of Lm and address
post-process contamination through a lethality treatment. Some already
require High Hydrostatic Pressure treatments for high risk products.
Ideally, the meat and poultry products that are brought into retail delis
should be 100% fee of Lm contamination.
the potential for cross contamination between various prepared meat and
cheese products in deli cases and on slicers should be better managed. This
can be addressed by fully separating raw and cooked products in deli cases
and by designating slicers by product type and for meat and dairy
products. Slicers and other
equipment in retail delis should also be thoroughly washed at regular
intervals and frequently sanitized during operations.
In addition, environmental sources of
contamination must be controlled.
Technologies are available that continuously reduce the incidence of
Lm on food contact surfaces and in the air. These technologies have
applications in retail delis, fresh produce display cases, salad bars, and
fresh meat, poultry and seafood display and processing areas.
are another source of contamination. Proper training on employee hygiene
GMP’s and strict policies regarding gloves, aprons and hairnets will also
cleaning and sanitizers products used in RTE areas should be validated for
Lm. Retail stores should also adopt policies for sanitizer rotation and
implement cleaning and sanitizing system to address biolfilms.
Every case of foodborne listeriosis is
The food industry has made great progress
in controlling Lm. The results can be seen in foodborne disease statistics
– cases and outbreaks associated with Lm have been reduced and are still
trending downward. By expanding Listeria control principles to retail
stores, the risk can be reduced even further.
deserves credit for placing regulatory focus where it needed the most.