September 21, 2018

Study Looks at Reducing Listeria in Deli Foods

Preventing Listeria in retail deli settings requires a multi-step approach, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Based on the study, the agencies have developed recommendations designed to improve food safety and reduce the public health burden of listeriosis.

Although Listeria is not common, it causes serious illness. More than 90 percent of listeriosis cases require hospitalization and about 16 percent of cases are fatal. (Fatality rates from Salmonella or E. coli are about .5 percent.) Of the 1,600 Americans sickened by Listeria each year, 1,500 will require hospitalization and 260 will die.

Listeria in deli settings can be reduced if: contamination in foods delivered to delis is reduced; growth inhibitors are used; cross-contamination is eliminated through proper cleaning of slicers and other equipment and refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods are stored at or below the recommended temperature of 41˚F.

“The risk assessment will be a tremendous asset in our efforts to reduce the 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths attributed to this pathogen annually,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said in a statement about the study. “Essential information has been gained from these findings, including the fact that once [Listeria] enters a retail environment, it has the potential to spread due to cross contamination. This assessment highlights the importance of our work to prevent [Listeria] from entering the retail environment in the first place, and provides a significant tool towards this effort to protect consumers and prevent foodborne illness.”

To  read the study click here. To attend a public meeting in Washington D.C. to discuss the study register here.

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