New FDA/USDA Report Looks At Ways To Prevent Listeria Contamination
May 12, 2013

New FDA/USDA Report Looks At Ways To Prevent Listeria Contamination

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Stricter control of temperature while refrigerating food, keeping food contact surfaces clean and sanitary, and wearing gloves while serving customers could help prevent the spread of the bacterial disease listeria at delicatessens and other food-related businesses, US health officials claim in a new report.

The report, released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday, analyzed the risk of illness associated with the listeria monocytogenes pathogen from food prepared at delis and other retail stores, according to Toni Clarke of Reuters.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates L. monocytogenes is responsible for approximately 1,600 illnesses; 1,500 hospitalizations and 260 deaths annually, Clarke said. While listeriosis is said to be relatively rare in comparison with other foodborne illnesses, it has a fatality rate of roughly 16 percent, she added. In comparison Salmonella and E. coli have fatalities rates in the vicinity of 0.5 percent.

“Investigators simulated the retail deli environment and evaluated how certain sanitary and food handling practices could influence the risk of developing listeriosis from ready-to-eat foods that are sliced, prepared or packaged in retail grocery delis,” Clarke explained. “They found that employing basic practices that prevent growth of the bacteria dramatically reduced the predicted risk of listeriosis.

“Some of the main sources of L. monocytogenes are the slicer for deli meats and cheeses and salad utensils for the deli salads. These can lead to cross-contamination of other foods. Controlling cross-contamination at these points reduced the predicted risk of listeriosis,” she added.

The authors of the USDA/FDA report said their study would help improve their understanding of this pathogen in retail delis and other food-related businesses. It should also lead to better retail food-safety practices and to new strategies to minimize the risks associated with the pathogen.

However, they also note additional research could prove useful to take a closer look at how specific retail practices and other factors, such as equipment design, could influence the spread of the illness. According to the CDC, symptoms of listeriosis can include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.