Ready-to-eat (RTE) food safety recalls and outbreaks due to product contamination of Listeria monocytogenes from the environment are devastating to affected consumers and their families, the originating food plants, and the food industry. RTE food plants must develop a risk-based environmental monitoring program (EMP) that covers the eight “W”s: why, who, which, where, when, what, what if, and what’s going on.
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Explore this issueAugust/September 2018
The goals of an EMP are to verify the effectiveness of Listeria control and to seek and destroy the pathogen and harborage sites (if present) for regulatory compliance (e.g. FDA Food Safety Modernization Act), recall prevention, audit readiness (e.g. Global Food Safety Initiative), brand protection, and customer and consumer satisfaction.
Although the food safety team develops and implements an EMP, successful implementation relies on the senior management team. This team commits to nurture food safety culture so the EMP is not the flavor of the month to pass an audit.
Listeria spp. is the most suitable indicator and includes psychrotrophic Listeria monocytogenes with relatively low infective dose to cause listeriosis but with relatively high mortality rate in high-risk populations (e.g. young, old, pregnant woman, and immunocompromised patients). For low water activity foods, Enterobacteriaceae and Salmonella spp. are the target indicators.