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Steps for U.S. store delis to reduce Listeria risk

May 11, 2013 at 4:31 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- No single action can put an end to Listeria in food sold at stores, but U.S. retail deli operators can take steps to reduce listeriosis risk, officials say.

A study by the U.S. Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found if all refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods were stored at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below -- as the FDA Food Code recommends -- at least 9 of every 100 cases of listeriosis caused by contaminated deli products could be prevented.

If all deli products that support Listeria growth were reformulated to include growth inhibitor, 96-of-100 cases of listeriosis caused by contaminated deli products could be prevented. This finding is significant, but the actual benefit might be smaller because growth inhibitor might be used in concentrations not effective throughout the shelf life of a food, and it could affect the flavor.

In addition, the study found:

-- The predicted risk of listeriosis dramatically increased in retail delis as a result of cross contamination, with slicers remaining a particular challenge, but proper cleaning and personal hygiene makes a difference.

-- If current levels of Listeria in ready-to-eat foods received by the retail deli from processing establishments were reduced by half, 22 of every 100 cases of listeriosis caused by contaminated deli products could be prevented.

Consumers also have a role to play in reducing listeriosis, government officials said. For advice on keeping refrigerated foods cold, cleaning one's refrigerator regularly and cleaning hands and kitchen surfaces often, visit foodsafety.gov.

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