For a more comprehensive look at food industry efforts to prevent listeriosis, download the article titled, "Guidelines to Prevent Post-Processing Contamination from Listeria Monocytogenes." (Reprinted with permission from Dairy, Food and Environmental Sanitation. Copyright held by the International Association for Food Protection.) Downloadable file is in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. Don't have Acrobat? Download it for free.
Given the ubiquitous nature of Listeria monocytogenes, there is no "silver bullet" when it comes to listeriosis prevention. However, there are effective tools in the toolbox. The food industry, food retailers, restaurants, the government, scientists, doctors, consumers and others utilize a complement of powerful tools to protect public health. All stakeholders can employ three fundamental prevention strategies:
- Prevent the growth of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods
- Prevent contamination of foods that support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes
- Target education messages to high risk consumers and their care givers
The food industry takes seriously its responsibility and commitment to public health. The food industry believes no unsafe food should be sold, period. Among their tools, manufactures use a preventive system called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) to make sure that foods are properly cooked to destroy Listeria monocytogenes and other harmful bacteria. They also clean and monitor the processing environment to reduce the potential for contamination of product after processing. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and the very design of the equipment used in manufacturing contribute to the prevention of contamination.
Retailers and foodservice operators can educate food handlers about avoiding cross-contamination between raw and cooked product, proper cooking temperatures and other safe food handling and preparation procedures.
Consumers can learn and implement safe food handling and preparation procedures in the home, including prevention of cross-contamination between raw and cooked products, keeping refrigerators as cold as possible, cooking food thoroughly, and limiting refrigeration storage time for foods that allow Listeria monocytogenes to grow. (See www.fightbac.org)
The medical community can educate patients and their caregivers about listeriosis and preventive measures. This is especially important for members of at-risk populations, including the immuno-compromised, the elderly and pregnant women.
With scientific advances, the potential to further improve listeriosis prevention strategies is promising. All stakeholders must work together for most effective prevention strategy.