Controlling Listeria Contamination in Produce Facilities
Listeria monocytogenes has emerged as a food safety concern for a number of specialty crops and produce commodities (including fruits) and has been responsible for numerous produce recalls across the United States. While L. monocytogenes contamination can occur throughout the production and processing chain, contamination from packing house and processing facility environments represents a particular concern and has been linked to a number of recalls and contamination events. It is thus essential for the produce industry to gain a better understanding of L. monocytogenes and Listeria species prevalence, persistence, and contamination patterns in packing houses and processing facilities and to implement improved control strategies.
Martin Wiedmann, Food Science, is completing a field study in at least 20 produce packing houses and processing facilities to develop, implement, and evaluate produce-specific Pathogen Environmental Monitoring (PEM) programs and Seek & Destroy programs targeting Listeria. This field study involves environmental sampling as well as genetic subtyping of isolates to elucidate transmission pathways and niches for Listeria species and L. monocytogenes in packing houses and processing facilities. The data will be integrated with existing information and guidance documents to develop and offer internet-based training and hands-on workshops on development and implementation of Listeria PEM programs.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s fiscal year 2015 Specialty Crop Multi-State Program has provided funding for this project, and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets serves as its manager.