Norway – It is important to monitor and have effective measures against Listeria in salmon slaughterhouses


The hygienic standard in Norwegian salmon slaughterhouses is generally good. At the same time, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s sampling shows that Listeria is present in both the production environment and in small quantities of fish in some salmon slaughterhouses.

– It is therefore important that the salmon slaughterhouse continuously monitors Listeria and at all times has effective hygiene measures, says Inge Erlend Næsset, director of the regulations and control department in the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.

Supervision and sampling

In 2021, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority carried out an inspection campaign in which 63 establishments and vessels that slaughter salmonids were inspected for measures and routines to prevent the fish from becoming contaminated with the listeria bacterium.

The background was the serious listeriosis outbreaks that were reported from the EU in 2018 and 2019. The outbreaks were related to the consumption of smoked, digged and marinated salmon and aura, where the raw materials were Norwegian.

Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis. Most people do not get sick from the bacterium, but pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are at risk. 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. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority therefore saw a need for a better overview of the status of fresh salmon and Listeria, Næsset said.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority also took listeria samples from 60 slaughterhouses which were analyzed by the Institute of Marine Research .

Uncover relatively few deficiencies

18 companies received a decision. These mainly concerned the management system, including hazard analysis, sampling plan and measures for the detection of Listeria. One business was closed due to lack of reindeer husbandry and maintenance.

Otherwise, relatively few deficiencies were revealed in the hygienic practices of premises and equipment at the operations, where this was controlled.

– Our general impression after the campaign is that most salmon slaughterhouses have a good hygienic standard, says Næsset.

Listeria in both production environments and on fish

The results from the analyzes carried out by the Institute of Marine Research showed findings of Listeria monocytogenes in 18% of salmon slaughterhouses, and in small quantities of finished whole, gutted fish in 12% of salmon slaughterhouses.

– If Listeria is allowed to develop at later process stages, the product can entail a serious health risk for vulnerable consumers. These findings confirm that it is important that the salmon slaughterhouse continuously monitors Listeria, and has consistently good routines for hygiene, Næsset concludes.

Report after the inspection campaign: Inspection of listeria measures in salmon slaughterhouse 2021

Report from the Institute of Marine Research: Monitoring program 2021: Listeria in salmon slaughterhouses and on salmonids

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