October 21, 2021

USDA’s Guidance for Listeria Control in Retail Delis

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) has issued a guidance for Listeria control in retail deli settings.  The document outlines specific measures retailers can take to control Listeria in ready-to-eat meat (RTE) and poultry products.

Listeria monocytogenes bacteriaListeria is a rare and deadly foodborne pathogen that is often associated with ready-to-eat deli meats, soft cheeses and smoked fish. When ingested it causes an infection called listeriosis. Of the 1,600 people diagnosed with listeriosis each year, 1,500 require hospitalization and 260 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Listeria poses a special risk for children, seniors, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems. Among pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and birth defects. A recent Listeria outbreak linked to soft cheeses produced by Roos Foods, eight people were sickened and one of them, an infant, died.

Here are the agency’s recommendations for product handling. Use products made with antimicrobial agents or that have been treated with a process that reduces bacterial contamination. Monitor shelf life of products. Slice products when they are requested from customers, do not pre-slice. Promptly return products to refrigerator after slicing. Quickly remove any products that are no longer in good condition and sanitize the area. Store and handle RTE products separately from raw products. Clean and sanitize slicers between uses when using them to reduce the size of large products.  Keep grinders and dicers in sanitary condition.

The recommendations for cleaning and sanitizing include developing a written sanitation procedure that describes how equipment and utensils will be cleaned. Cleaning and sanitizing frequently used items at least every four hours. Using low water pressure when cleaning to reduce splashing and cross-contamination. Use separate sinks for hand washing and product cleaning. Remove all unnecessary items from the area.

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