Ireland – Survey of the Microbiological Safety of Refrigerated Ready-to-eat (RTE) Spreads and Dips


Refrigerated/fresh spreads and dips such as hummus, guacamole, meat and fish pâtés are popular ready-to-eat food items. New products enter the market regularly to facilitate consumer’s lifestyles for on-the-go snacking and portion control.
However, many of these products are capable of supporting the growth of Listeria monocytogenes and undergo no further cooking by the consumer prior to consumption, making them high risk foods.Plant-based dips such as fresh salsa and guacamole contain raw produce.
These are often made in large batches and if made under poor hygienic conditions and poorly refrigerated area risk for the growth of foodborne pathogens (Kendall et al., 2013). Since those products are generally not cooked, their microbiological quality relies on the combination of several hurdles including pH, presence of organic acids, use of preservatives and storage temperature.
Ingredient quality also has a major effect on the final product safety. Chefs may choose to use lower grade ingredients (e.g. bruised tomatoes) reserving higher quality for foods in which they are visible to the consumer (Kendall et al., 2013). Dicing or pureeing produce, typical for preparation of salsa and guacamole, creates a large cut surface area that can spread contamination and increases availability of nutrients that can support the growth of pathogens (Asplund et al., 1991; Weissinger et al., 2000).
Plant-based food items are projected to become more and more popular with vegetarian and vegan consumers looking for a good source of protein in order to meet their nutritional needs. However, foodborne outbreaks particularly with Salmonella have been linked to these types of products worldwide (Appendix 1).
Meat and fish spreads, such as chicken liver pâté and smoked salmon pâté and pastes are popular spreads. Within the meat category, liver pâtés are amongst the most popular with chicken/duck livers being the major ingredient. There are multiple recipes for the manufacture of these types of spreads with the cooking of the livers being a critical control point. However, if appropriate cooking processes are not applied, pathogens if present can survive and potentially grow to harmful levels in these types of products. For example,smoked fish such as salmon, trout or mackerel, used in the production of fish spreads, have been occasionally contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and can survive if the cooking process is insufficient (Rørvik et al.,2000).

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