While several studies have examined Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) prevalence in dairy and meat processing facilities, few have looked at Lm contamination patterns and related sanitation programs in produce processing facilities.
But Ana Allende, Ph.D., and her team from the CEBAS-CSIC research institute in Spain, hope their two-year CPS-funded research will change that. The project is designed to yield practical data about produce facilities’ environmental monitoring plans as well as the efficacy of sanitation programs.
• Project looked at Listeria contamination patterns in three produce processing facilities.
• Whole genome sequencing, a type of genetic fingerprinting, helped link positive Lm samples to possible sources.
• Researchers tested biocides against resident Lm populations to gauge efficacy and potential loss of sensitivity.
“We started to become interested in the role of environmental contamination following years of attending the CPS Symposium where some researchers, such as Dr. Martin Wiedmann and Dr. Laura Strawn, focused on Listeria control in produce packinghouses and processing facilities,” she said. “We’re trying to bring our experiences from another point of view. The facilities we’re able to sample here could also help us understand the significance of this problem.”
Joining her as co-principal investigators were Mabel Gil, Ph.D., and Pilar Truchado, Ph.D., both from the CEBAS-CSIC.
As part of the project, the researchers enlisted the cooperation of three processing plants: one with a cut iceberg lettuce line, one with a cut fruit line and one with a salad bowl line.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has zero tolerance for Lm in processed produce samples, the European Commission has set a threshold of up to 100 colony-forming units per gram.
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