The majority of human listeriosis cases appear to be caused by consumption of ready-to-eat (RTE) foods contaminated at the time of consumption with high levels of Listeria monocytogenes.
Although strategies to prevent growth of L. monocytogenes in RTE products are critical for reducing the incidence of human listeriosis, control of postprocessing environmental contamination of RTE meat and poultry products is an essential component of a comprehensive L. monocytogenes intervention and control program.
Complete elimination of postprocessing L. monocytogenes contamination is challenging because this pathogen is common in various environments outside processing plants and can persist in food processing environments for years. Persistent L. monocytogenes strains in processing plants have been identified as the most common postprocessing contaminants of RTE foods and the cause of multiple listeriosis outbreaks.
Identification and elimination of L. monocytogenes strains persisting in processing plants is thus critical for (i) compliance with zero-tolerance regulations for L. monocytogenes in U.S. RTE meat and poultry products and (ii) reduction of the incidence of human listeriosis.
The seek-and-destroy process is a systematic approach to finding sites of persistent strains (niches) in food processing plants, with the goal of either eradicating or mitigating effects of these strains. This process has been used effectively to address persistent L. monocytogenes contamination in food processing plants, as supported by peer-reviewed evidence detailed here. Thus, a regulatory environment that encourages aggressive environmental Listeria testing is required to facilitate continued use of this science-based strategy for controlling L. monocytogenes in RTE foods.
Journal of Food Protection®, Number 2, February 2015, pp. 240-476, pp. 436-445(10)
Malley, Thomas J. V.; Butts, John; Wiedmann, Martin