Listeria monocytogenes is the causative agent of the severe foodborne infection listeriosis. The number of listeriosis cases in recent years has increased in many European countries, including Finland. Contamination of the pathogen needs to be minimized and growth to high numbers in foods prevented in order to reduce the incidence of human cases. The aim of this study was to evaluate contamination routes of L. monocytogenes in the food chain and to investigate methods for control of the pathogen in food processing. L. monocytogenes was commonly found in wild birds, the pig production chain and in pork production plants. It was found most frequently in birds feeding at landfill site, organic farms, tonsil samples, and sites associated with brining. L. monococytogenes in birds, farms, food processing plant or foods did not form distinct genetic groups, but populations overlapped. The majority of genotypes recovered from birds were also detected in foods, food processing environments and other animal species and birds may disseminate L. monocytogenes into food chain. Similar genotypes were found in different pigs on the same farm, as well as in pigs on farms and later in the slaughterhouse. L. monocytogenes contamination spreads at farm level and may be a contamination source into slaughterhouses and further into meat. Incoming raw pork in the processing plant was frequently contaminated with L. monocytogenes and genotypes in raw meat were also found in processing environment and in RTE products. Thus, raw material seems to be a considerable source of contamination into processing facilities. In the pork processing plant, the prevalence of L. monocytogenes increased in the brining area, showing that the brining was an important contamination site. Recovery of the inoculated L. monocytogenes strains showed that there were strain-specific differences in the ability to survive in lettuce and dry sausage. The ability of some L. monocytogenes strains to survive well in food production raises a challenge for industry, because these strains can be especially difficult to remove from the products and raises a need to use an appropriate hurdle concept to control most resistant strains. Control of L. monocytogenes can be implemented throughout the food chain. Farm-specific factors affected the prevalence of L. monocytogenes and good farm-level practices can therefore be utilized to reduce the prevalence of this pathogen on the farm and possibly further in the food chain. Well separated areas in a pork production plant had low prevalences of L. monocytogenes, thus showing that compartmentalization controls the pathogen in the processing line. The food processing plant, especially the brining area, should be subjected to disassembling, extensive cleaning and disinfection to eliminate persistent contamination by L. monocytogenes, and replacing brining with dry-salting should be considered. All of the evaluated washing solutions decreased the populations of L. monocytogenes on precut lettuce, but did not eliminate the pathogen. Thus, the safety of fresh-cut produce cannot rely on washing with disinfectants, and high-quality raw material and good manufacturing practices remain important. L. monocytogenes was detected in higher levels in sausages without the protective culture than in sausages with this protective strain, although numbers of L. monocytogenes by the end of the ripening decreased to the level of < 100 MPN/g in all sausages. Protective starter cultures provide an appealing hurdle in dry sausage processing and assist in the control of L. monocytogenes.
|Tila||Julkaistu - 2011|
|OKM-julkaisutyyppi||G5 Tohtorinväitöskirja (artikkeli)|
- 413 Eläinlääketiede