A multidisciplinary approach is recommended to control the environmental pathogen Listeria monocytogenes in the production of quick-frozen vegetables. A food safety management system, based on Pre-Requisite Programs (PRPs, focusing on the hygiene and organization of the production environment) and a HACCP-plan (focusing on the process control), need to have a full focus on Listeria monocytogenes in order to prevent the organism from colonizing and persisting in complex biofilm formations, or to prevent contamination with the organism after (thermal) processing during further handling before packaging. Figure 1 illustrates the different PRPs and the HACCP-plan relevant in the prevention and control of Listeria monocytogenes. Environmental control needs to be established in order to verify the effectiveness of the implemented PRPs and HACCP-plan and to evaluate the potential accumulation of Listeria monocytogenes in the broader production environment. Finally, end product specifications must help Food Business
Operators (FBOs) to set intermediate levels towards L. monocytogenes, achievable in end products when a proper food safety management system is in place. Risk communication and information sharing towards the users of quick-frozen vegetables must clearly state the proper use of the frozen products to avoid potential abuse. Apart from these technomanagerial activities, an FBO also needs to establish a safety culture and create awareness throughout the whole production organization and all its aspects in the prevention and control of food safety hazards and hygiene disruptions.
The presented guidelines cover frozen vegetables, blanched and unblanched, which are considered as Non Ready-To- Eat (nRTE). FBOs intending to market frozen vegetables as Ready-To-Eat (RTE), would also benefit from following these guidelines. Such FBOs, however, should follow additional preventive and control measures to assure the safety of RTE products, but these are not included in the current guidelines.
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