Safety Zone
By: James Marsden
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Helping RTE processors sleep at night

Source of Article:

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

Today, after 20 years of research and technology development, virtually all cases and outbreaks of listeriosis associated with RTE meats and all Listeria-related meat recalls are preventable using a three-step approach. 

Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) is an important foodborne pathogen. Although there are relatively few cases of Lm reported annually (app. 2500 cases of serious illness), it is one of the major causes of foodborne illness related deaths (estimated 500 annually). Pregnant women, unborn fetuses and immune compromised individuals are particularly at risk of listeriosis.

Since the first case of listeriosis associated processed meats was reported in 1989, the control of Lm in RTE products has been one of the industry’s primary food safety objectives. 

Technologies are available that allow for the effective control of Lm to such a level that consumer risk from RTE products is virtually eliminated. There are three components to a totally effective Listeria control strategy:

 First, since Lm thrives in the type of cold and damp environments found in meat processing plants, it is necessary to employ excellent sanitation. However, sanitation alone will not eliminate Lm. Sanitation should be augmented by the use of Advanced Oxidation Cells that produce low levels of vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide and other oxidative compounds. Because these anti-microbial compounds are in vapor or gas form, they reach every remote surface in the plant. This technology also eliminates airborne particles as a vector for Lm contamination.

Secondly chemical growth inhibitors (i.e. Lactate, Citrate and Di-acetate) when added as ingredients in RTE products prevent outgrowth during refrigeration. This is important because Lm unlike most other pathogens grows under refrigeration. Since many consumers eat RTE products after shelf life expiration, growth inhibitors provide a safety net by preventing multiplication of Lm to dangerous levels even after long periods of refrigerated storage.

Finally, a post-process kill step i.e. pasteurization using High Hydrostatic Pressure (HHP) or a validated thermal surface treatment will assure that any Lm contamination that occurred after cooking and before packaging is eliminated. By treating RTE products with HHP or with a validated post-process thermal process in the consumer package as a final processing step, the risk of Lm contamination is virtually eliminated.

Microbiological testing of Lm in finished products acts to verify that the combination of processes effectively eliminated the pathogen.

RTE processors that employ this three step approach will produce a safe product that is free of Lm contamination. As an added bonus, they can sleep at night without worry about outbreaks and recalls.  


7/3/2009 12:27 PM 



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