EFSA publishes survey into listeria monocytogenes

Yesterday (27 June) the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published the first part of a survey into listeria monocytogenes and the implications of its presence in ready-to-eat foods.

Particularly affecting foods that are intended to be consumed without cooking, such as cold meats, soft cheeses and fish, listeriosis can lead to hospitalisation and have high mortality rates, despite being a rare condition.

In 2011, there were 1,470 human cases of the disease in the EU, with a 12.7% mortality rate.

The report showed that of the samples collected from supermarkets and shops, listeria monocytogenes was present in 2.1% of meat, 10.3% of fish and 0.5% of cheese. Despite these relatively high numbers, the food safety limit was exceeded only in 0.4% of meat, 1.7% of fish and 0.006% of cheese.

EU legislation has specific rules for food business operators on how to prevent listeriosis, which include “the need to follow good manufacturing practices, appropriate food hygiene programmes, and effective temperature control throughout the food chain”.

Symptoms of listeriosis range from mild flu-like symptoms to infections such as meningitis and other life-threatening illnesses.

In the second part, EFSA will examine the risk factors of the bacteria in these categories, as well as examining why the bacteria is more present in fish. The study is anticipated to be finalised next year.

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