Processing aid may reduce risk of Listeria outbreak in Australia

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 22nd September 2011

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has invited submissions on an application for a processing aid to reduce the risk of the food poisoning bacteria Listeria.

The move follows a fresh outbreak of a deadly strain of Listeria monocytogenes in the U.S. as reported this week by Australian Food News.

FSANZ Chief Executive Officer, Steve McCutcheon, said EBI Food Safety Ltd has applied for permission to use a bacteriophage preparation called P100 as a processing aid for ready-to-eat foods to reduce levels of Listeria monocytogenes.

“Processing aids can’t legally be used in food production without a rigorous safety assessment by FSANZ,” Mr McCutcheon explained.

“Bacteriophages infect very specific strains of bacteria so the P100 bacteriophage would not infect any other bacteria except Listeria. They are harmless to plants, animals or humans and do not alter the properties of food, disintegrating into natural compounds such as amino acids.

“While Listeria has little impact on healthy people, it can cause severe illness in people with reduced immune systems such as pregnant women and their babies, young children, cancer patients, people with HIV/AIDS, and the elderly.”

Currently, the Food Standards Code permits no tolerance of Listeria monocytogenes in various foods.

The use of bacteriophage preparations to treat food has been approved by the United States, Canada and the Netherlands.

Mr McCutcheon said that there would be a second round open for public comment later in the application process before a trial recommendation on the application to the FSANZ Board.

Submissions on the consultation document are invited from consumers, the food industry and jurisdictions on the recommended approach contained in the proposal and its impacts. The period for submissions closes on 1 November 2011.