Listeria-related outbreaks and recalls are a persistent problem for the produce industry, according to the CDC’s listing of foodborne illness outbreaks and the FDA recall list. However, unlike other foodborne pathogens such as E. coli or Salmonella, which are usually brought into the plant on incoming raw material, Listeria can become resident in a processing facility, subsequently contaminating produce with each processing.
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Explore this issueOctober/November 2016
Listeria is a particularly challenging problem for produce processors. Much, if not all, of their product will reach consumers’ plates without undergoing additional processing, such as cooking, that could kill pathogens. This ready-to-eat status requires that produce coming into the plant be free of contamination, and that processing is carried out in a manner that minimizes the potential for contamination.
Produce is frequently processed in facilities that are cold and wet, an ideal environment in which Listeria can become a persistent issue if cleaning and sanitation practices are not thorough and consistent. Though seeming to be but an added cost to the food processor, effective sanitation can lead to long-term savings. Recalls are expensive, both in terms of lost product and, more importantly, in damaged brand reputation. A safe food product is a quality food product; no one wants consumers getting sick or sharing negative experiences. Additionally, the increasing involvement of the Department of Justice in outbreak investigations raises the potential for facility owners and management involved in outbreaks to become subject to criminal prosecution.
Proper sanitation, as a component of a robust maintenance program, can increase operational efficiency. Clean equipment breaks down less frequently, a sanitary environment increases product yield, and a cleaner workplace is safer for employees.| | | Next → | Single Page