The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published the first part of an EU-wide baseline survey on the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in certain ready-to-eat food products.
The survey – conducted in 26 EU member states and Norway during 2010 and 2011 – examined results from over 13,000 samples of ready-to-eat fish products, packaged cooked meats and soft and semi-soft cheeses. The samples were taken from retail outlets and were tested for presence and level of Listeria monocytogenes.
The results showed that the pathogen was present in 10.3% of fish samples, 2.1% of meat products and 0.5% of cheeses. However, the EU food safety limit of 100 CFU/g was only exceeded in 1.7% of fish, 0.4% of meat and 0.06% of cheese.
Although these results are encouraging, EFSA has reiterated the importance of good hygienic practice throughout the food supply chain and good temperature control in consumers’ refrigerators as key controls for Listeria growth in ready-to-eat foods.
The second part of the study, which looks at risk factors for the presence of Listeria in these food categories and for its growth in fish, will be completed in 2014. The full survey results can be found here.