Research – Observed potential cross-contamination in retail delicatessens

Journal of Food Protection

Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) is a persistent public health concern in the United States and is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness. Cross-contamination of L. monocytogenes is common in delis (between contaminated and uncontaminated equipment, food and hands) and likely plays a role in the associated with retail deli meats. In 2012, EHS-Net conducted a study to describe deli characteristics related to cross-contamination with L. monocytogenes. The study included 298 retail delis in six state and local health departments’ jurisdictions and assessed how well deli practices complied with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code provisions. Among delis observed using wet wiping cloths for cleaning, 23.6% did not store the cloths in a sanitizing solution between uses. Observed potential cross-contamination of raw meats and ready-to-eat foods during preparation (e.g., same knife used on raw meats and ready-to-eat foods, without cleaning in between) was present in 9.4% of delis. In 24.6% of delis with a cold storage unit, raw meats were not stored separately from ready-to-eat products in containers, bins, or trays. A proper food safety management plan can reduce gaps in cross-contamination and include the adoption of procedures to minimize food safety risks, training with instructions and in-person demonstrations and certifying staff on those procedures, and monitoring to ensure procedures are followed.

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