Keep that cooler cold: Listeria in deli meats

Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) causes the third highest number of foodborne illness deaths annually. L. monocytogenes contamination of sliced deli meats at the retail level is a significant contributing factor to L. monocytogenes illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) conducted a study to learn more about retail delis’ practices concerning L. monocytogenes growth and cross-contamination prevention.

This article presents data from this study on the frequency with which retail deli refrigerator temperatures exceed 41°F, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-recommended maximum temperature for ready-to-eat food requiring time and temperature control for safety (TCS) (such as retail deli meat). This provision was designed to control bacterial growth in TCS foods. This article also presents data on deli and staff characteristics related to the frequency with which retail delis refrigerator temperatures exceed 41°F.

Data from observations of 445 refrigerators in 245 delis showed that in 17.1% of delis, at least one refrigerator was >41°F. We also found that refrigeration temperatures reported in this study were lower than those reported in a related 2007 study. Delis with more than one refrigerator, that lacked refrigerator temperature recording, and had a manager who had never been food safety certified had greater odds of having a refrigerator temperature >41°F.

The data from this study suggest that retail temperature control is improving over time. They also identify a food safety gap: some delis have refrigerator temperatures that exceed 41°F. We also found that two food safety interventions were related to better refrigerated storage practices: kitchen manager certification and recording refrigerated storage temperatures. Regulatory food safety programs and the retail industry may wish to consider encouraging or requiring kitchen manager certification and recording refrigerated storage temperatures.

Food Safety Practices Linked with Proper Refrigerator Temperatures in Retail Delis


Foodborne Pathogens and Disease

Brown Laura G. , Hoover Edward Rickamer , Faw Brenda V. , Hedeen Nicole K. , Nicholas David , Wong Melissa R. , Shepherd Craig , Gallagher Daniel L. , and Kause Janell R.