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Research shows Listeria contamination is more likely at retail level than in manufacturing plants

26 February 2015

In a study published in the Journal of Food Protection, research led by Hayley Oliver at Purdue University found that Listeria contamination was more likely to arise at retail level rather than being present from the point of manufacture.

In phase I of the study, samples taken prior to the start of the day across 15 delicatessens in the three US states for three months showed that 6.8% were positive for the presence of L.Monocytogenes.

In phase II of the study 30 delicatessens were tested, with each site having 28 sampling points tested for a period of 6 months. Sampling points included both food contact areas and non-contact areas such as floors and drains. For this part of the study it was shown that 9.5 % of all the samples taken gave a positive identification for L.Monocytogenes.

In the analysis of data generated from the study, it was seen that in some cases contamination was persistent, with strains of the bacteria appearing in several of the samples taken, but there were also clear patterns in the distribution of the species, showing that cross-contamination between food contact areas and other non-contact areas was limited.
At a manufacturing level, the control of bacterial pathogens is highly monitored and controlled to minimise mass outbreaks of food related illness. This study shows that the control at the retail level is less controlled with levels beyond what would be acceptable at a manufacturing level.

The data obtained from this study will allow a better understanding of how Listeria may develop in a retail environment, and will also allow better controls to be put into place when planning control strategies such as cleaning protocols.

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