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Listeria Roundtable Underscores Need for Comprehensive Strategy to Eliminate Listeria monocytogenes

Thursday, November 16, 2000

A coordinated and comprehensive strategy that includes equipment innovation, sanitation, ingredient technology, post processing technologies and careful handling by distributors, retailers and consumers is the best means of reducing and ultimately eliminating Listeria monocytogenes (L.m.) and the human illness listeriosis.

This was the overarching message at “Listeria 2000: Industry Sponsored Research Update,” sponsored by the AMI Foundation and the Sara Lee Foundation at the Georgetown Center for Food and Nutrition Policy yesterday. The goal of the meeting was to provide a forum to share new L.m. research.

According to Lester Crawford, DVM, director of the Georgetown Center, L.m. presents unique challenges because it is a pervasive, environmental contaminant that can be found in air, water and soil. “And because it grows under refrigeration, once it is present in a plant environment – or even in a home refrigerator – it can be extremely difficult to eliminate,” Crawford said. “That’s why it is important for the research community to work together closely with government and industry to share information that will help us eliminate this pathogen.”

During the roundtable, more than 70 scientists, academic experts and regulators discussed 14 ongoing and recently completed research projects on equipment design, new test methods, the use of anti-microbial additives, irradiation and other post-packaging pasteurization technologies and consumer handling issues that may contribute to Listeria growth and to cross contamination of foods.

The AMI Foundation funded six of these projects. They include:

  • “Reduction of Listeria biofilm formation in ready-to-eat processing environments,” by Amy Wong, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, ongoing. This research is examining equipment design that inhibits the formation of biofilms, which are like protective “cocoons” that pathogens form around themselves to create resistance to normal sanitation efforts.
  • “Elite herb extracts containing high rosmarinic acid inhibition of Listeria in meat and poultry products,” by Kalidas Shetty, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, ongoing. This research is testing the anti-pathogenic effects of phenolic compounds derived from selected herb varieties, such as rosemary, oregano and thyme.
  • “Optimum radiation doses to eliminate Listeria in packaged RTE processed meats,” by James Dickson, Ph.D., of Iowa State University, ongoing. This research is examining the optimal doses of irradiation to achieve pathogen reduction without sacrificing product quality.
  • “1999 U.S. Cold Temperature Study,” by Richard Daniels, Ph.D., of Audits International, completed. This study tested temperatures in home refrigerators, retail refrigeration units and deli cases. It also examined product temperatures in stores, when leaving stores and once products arrived in consumers’ homes. The study found dramatic temperature abuse that could contribute to Listeria growth, were it present on a product.
  • “Use of pediocin with other barriers for control of L.m. on RTE processed meats,” by Joe Sebranek, Ph.D., Iowa State University, ongoing. This research evaluates the effect of a natural anti-microbial, pediocin, alone or in combination with packaging methods and post-processing heat treatments as multi-hurdle interventions for frankfurters.
  • “Validation of the use of composite sapling for Listeria in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products,” by Michael Curiale, Ph.D., of Silliker Laboratories, completed. The research showed that multiple product samples can be composited (up to 125 grams) and accurately tested for the presence of L.m. This permits companies operate more cost-effective testing programs to conserve resources for other preventative efforts.

    Most people are immune to illness from L.m. However, pregnant women, newborns, the very old and people who are immune-compromised can develop the disease listeriosis if exposed to sufficient numbers of the pathogen. While it is one of the rarest foodborne diseases, it is one most serious. The government advises these vulnerable people to reheat or avoid certain foods, including some ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, as well as some dairy foods.

    “Our research update showed there clearly is no silver bullet in the fight against Listeria,” said AMIF Vice President of Scientific and Technical Affairs Randy Huffman, Ph.D. “But there are many important hurdles available – and many new ones on the horizon -- that can be used from the plant to the consumer’s table to help ensure food safety. This industry benefits by
    selling safe food. We will continually seek new ways to make our products as safe as they can be.”

    For more information on AMIF’s research, visit http://www.amif.org
    The AMI Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to research, education and information that benefit the meat and poultry industry. Originally created in 1944, the AMI Foundation today solicits grants from government, industry and other organizations to fund a broad range of food safety, worker safety, nutrition and consumer information projects.

  • For more information contact:
    Janet Riley
    Vice President, Public Affairs
    Sara Lilgyren
    Senior Vice President

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