Postprocessing contamination in processing plants has historically been a significant source of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat delicatessen meats, and therefore a major cause of human listeriosis cases and outbreaks. Recent risk assessments suggest that a majority of human listeriosis cases linked to consumption of contaminated deli meats may be due to L. monocytogenes contamination that occurs at the retail level. To better understand the ecology and transmission of Listeria spp. in retail delicatessens, food and nonfood contact surfaces were tested for L. monocytogenes and other Listeria spp. in a longitudinal study conducted in 30 retail delis in three U.S. states. In phase I of the study, seven sponge samples were collected monthly for 3 months in 15 delis (5 delis per state) prior to start of daily operation; in phase II, 28 food contact and nonfood contact sites were sampled in each of 30 delis during daily operation for 6 months. Among the 314 samples collected during phase I, 6.8% were positive for L. monocytogenes. Among 4,503 samples collected during phase II, 9.5% were positive for L. monocytogenes; 9 of 30 delis showed low L. monocytogenes prevalence (<1%) for all surfaces. A total of 245 Listeria spp. isolates, including 184 Listeria innocua, 48 Listeria seeligeri, and 13 Listeria welshimeri were characterized. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) was used to characterize 446 L. monocytogenes isolates. PFGE showed that for 12 of 30 delis, one or more PFGE types were isolated on at least three separate occasions, providing evidence for persistence of a given L. monocytogenes subtype in the delis. For some delis, PFGE patterns for isolates from nonfood contact surfaces were distinct from patterns for occasional food contact surface isolates, suggesting limited cross-contamination between these sites in some delis. This study provides longitudinal data on L. monocytogenes contamination patterns in retail delis, which should facilitate further development of control strategies in retail delis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science