The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3,000 people die in the United States each year from foodborne illness, and Listeria monocytogenes causes the third highest number of deaths. Risk assessment data indicate that L. monocytogenes contamination of particularly delicatessen meats sliced at retail is a significant contributor to human listeriosis. Mechanical deli slicers are a major source of L. monocytogenes cross-contamination and growth.
In an attempt to prevent pathogen cross-contamination and growth, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created guidance to promote good slicer cleaning and inspection practices. The CDC’s Environmental Health Specialists Network conducted a study to learn more about retail deli practices concerning these prevention strategies. The present article includes data from this study on the frequency with which retail delis met the FDA recommendation that slicers should be inspected each time they are properly cleaned (defined as disassembling, cleaning, and sanitizing the slicer every 4 h).
Data from food worker interviews in 197 randomly selected delis indicate that only 26.9% of workers (n = 53) cleaned and inspected their slicers at this frequency. Chain delis and delis that serve more than 300 customers on their busiest day were more likely to have properly cleaned and inspected slicers. Data also were collected on the frequency with which delis met the FDA Food Code provision that slicers should be undamaged. Data from observations of 685 slicers in 298 delis indicate that only 37.9% of delis (n = 113) had slicers that were undamaged. Chain delis and delis that provide worker training were more likely to have slicers with no damage.
To improve slicer practices, food safety programs and the retail food industry may wish to focus on worker training and to focus interventions on independent and smaller delis, given that these delis were less likely to properly inspect their slicers and to have undamaged slicers.
Retail deli slicer inspection practices: An EHS-Net study, May 2018
Journal of Food Protection, vol. 81 no. 5