In 2021, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority will carry out an inspection campaign in all salmon slaughterhouses where we will investigate measures and routines to prevent the fish from becoming contaminated with the listeria bacterium.
Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis. Most of us do not get sick from the bacterium, but pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are vulnerable. Listeria multiplies at cooling temperature, survives freezing, salting and smoking, but is killed by adequate heat treatment.
– Since salmon and aura are largely eaten without heat treatment and used for ready-to-eat products such as sushi, sashimi, smoked and digged fish, it is important that producers have effective measures against Listeria, says Elisabeth Wilmann, director of fish and seafood at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.
Several listeriosis outbreaks in EU countries a few years ago
In 2018 and 2019, there were serious outbreaks of listeriosis in several EU countries related to the consumption of smoked, grated and marinated fish products. The raw materials were Norwegian salmon and aura. The product was traced back to processing plants in Poland and Estonia, but one could not rule out that the raw materials from Norway were contaminated.
– The fact that Norwegian salmon and aura have been linked to serious disease outbreaks is one of the reasons why the Norwegian Food Safety Authority is carrying out the inspection campaign. Another reason is that more and more countries are making demands with regard to Listeria in Norwegian fish, Wilmann says.
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s experience is that Norwegian salmon slaughterhouses generally have good knowledge of microbiological hazards in fish, and that targeted work has been done on measures against Listeria.
– At the same time, we know that Listeria is regularly detected in the production environment in Norwegian slaughterhouses, says Wilmann.
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority will guide, clarify responsibilities and get an overview
In the campaign, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority will examine the slaughterhouse’s measures, sampling and routines for non-conformance treatment.
– We emphasize guidance. In addition, we will clarify the regulations and the responsibility of the slaughterhouse to prevent unsafe products from entering the market, says Wilmann.
The aim is to control all salmon slaughterhouses and vessels that slaughter salmonids. The campaign period is 15 January to 1 September, and the final report will be published towards the end of 2021. It may be relevant to carry out some of the inspections digitally due to coronary restrictions.
In 2020-2021, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority will also implement a monitoring and mapping program to map the status of Listeria.
– By obtaining a better overview of the status of Listeria in salmonids, we will be in a better position to contribute to the clarification of any future disease outbreaks, Wilmann concludes.