Study helps identify sources of Listeria contamination

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 22nd April 2010

A new study by the US Agricultural Research Service and the University of Georgia has attempted to track sources of Listeria contamination in a commercial chicken cooking plant.

The study followed a brand-new commercial cooking facility for 21 months, before and after processing began, in order to find the origin of contamination by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, a common food-poisoning pathogen, which is prevalent in various forms in the environment.

Results suggest that Listeria entered the food processing environment predominantly through the incoming raw poultry, rather than through soil, water, air or employee contamination.

While the bacterium was consistently detected in incoming poultry, and the facility had extensive biosafety and food handling procedures in place to prevent any contaminated product leaving the plant, the Listeria bacterium can become prevalent in food-handling environments.

According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Listeria has little impact on healthy people, but can cause more severe illness in young children, the elderly, pregnant women (and their babies) and those with a compromised immune system.