Food Institute: Listeria Moving To The Forefront

Articles
December 03, 2009

Food Institute: Listeria Moving To The Forefront

The Food Institute publishes a summary of current food product recalls in its weekly Food Institute Report, and over the past year has noted an increase in the number of recalls related to Listeria monocytogenes.

The Food Institute publishes a summary of current food product recalls in its weekly Food Institute Report, and over the past year has noted an increase in the number of recalls related to Listeria monocytogenes. So far in 2009 the Food Institute tallied 21 Listeria related recalls of product reported by the Food & Drug Administration, and another seven posted by the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service as both agencies are responsible for different segments of our food supply. These numbers do not take into account products that have tested positive but were held and then destroyed by the establishments, so no recall was needed.

Listeria monocytogenes is the bacteria that is the cause of Listeriosis, an extremely virulent foodborne pathogen for which clinical infection many times results in death, making it responsible for approximately 2,500 illnesses and 500 deaths in the United States annually, fatality rates exceeding even Salmonella and Clostridium botulinum.

 

Over the last several months, the government has even recommended withdrawal of inspection services at two ready to eat food establishments due to an alleged failure to control Listeria. FDA, through the Department of Justice, also filed a complaint to permanently enjoin another food establishment from operating because of numerous positive findings for Listeria monocytogenes. It appears to be evident that many RTE food establishments do not have the required programs in place to control Listeria monocytogenes or to deal with the pathogen once it is found in their establishments and are not well prepared to respond to enforcement actions or requests for recalls by the food safety agencies.

 

This was borne out in a recent study by Cornell University and the NY State Department of Agriculture published in the Journal of Food Protection. The study found that in 121 retail establishments tested, 60 percent of the establishments had at least one sample that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes!

 

It is important that everyone, foodservice and grocery retailers alike, who are producing ready-to-eat (RTE) products, have a Listeria monocytogenes “control” program in place.

 

To help companies learn more about Listeria, The Food Institute is holding an important two-part webinar on Dec. 9TH and 16th to address these issues as well as how USDA and FDA are planning to enhance inspection and sampling at RTE food establishments.

 

Click here for more information.