Safety Zone
By: James Marsden
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Improving food safety in retail stores

Source of Article:

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)


According 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.


Over the 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 retail stores?


First, 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.


Secondly, 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.


Employees are another source of contamination. Proper training on employee hygiene GMP’s and strict policies regarding gloves, aprons and hairnets will also reduce risk.


Finally, 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 preventable.


 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.


USDA deserves credit for placing regulatory focus where it needed the most.

5/10/2009 6:14 PM 





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