Listeria can pose a huge threat to human health and the food production industry. Recalled batches can damage a company’s reputation; reduce consumer trust and ultimately, death for high-risk consumers.
Increasingly, consumers are more aware of the health benefits of consuming more fresh food as opposed to highly processed options. However whilst this is of benefit to health, consuming untreated produce is a leading contributor to foodborne illnesses. There have been large numbers of recalls in recent weeks due to possible risks of contamination of Listeria monocytogenes. The FDA website lists the recalled products and these instances have led to a greater understanding and acceptance of the need for more efficient pathogen control strategies.
The microorganism’s adaptations have enabled it to persist without the need for a host. As such, it may exist in decaying plant material or freshwater ecosystems, but this is currently not wholly understood. From these locations, it’s possible for the microorganism to enter the food processing environment and subsequently enter packing plants following harvest. As 16% of listeriosis cases are fatal, this is clearly something to be addressed.
Inadequate cleaning and sanitation of equipment at a packing plant for cantaloupes (in 2011, USA) was linked to post-harvest contamination of the product, as the pathogen had not been isolated from field samples. The article states that there were 147 cases and 33 deaths associated with this outbreak, as such, it remains the largest listeriosis outbreak on record.
The processing and packing stage is associated with the highest risk for contamination of fresh produce. This presents an opportunity for prevention and control measures. Dycem contamination control mats have helped to eliminate the growth and spread of Listeria in critical food production areas by up to 99.9%.
An example of this was when Dycem provided a two-toned flooring solution to Rikshospitalet kitchen, a company who provide meals to Oslo’s largest hospital. The flooring solution was two-toned, highlighting a clean and dirty side, indicating to employees where outdoor and indoor apparel must be worn. In such a busy environment, it was integral that precautions were undertaken in order to minimize microbial counts and contamination to food.
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