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J Food Prot. 2000 Oct;63(10):1438-42.

Listeria monocytogenes contamination pattern in pig slaughterhouses.

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Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Ten low-capacity slaughterhouses were examined for Listeria by collecting a total of 373 samples, of which 50, 250, and 73 were taken from carcasses, pluck sets, and the slaughterhouse environment, respectively. Six slaughterhouses and 9% of all samples were positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Of the samples taken from pluck sets, 9% were positive for L. monocytogenes, the highest prevalence occurring in tongue and tonsil samples, at 14% and 12%, respectively. Six of 50 (12%) carcasses were contaminated with L. monocytogenes. In the slaughterhouse environment, L. monocytogenes was detected in two, one, one, and one sample originating from the saws, drain, door, and table, respectively. Carcasses were contaminated with L. monocytogenes in those two slaughterhouses, where the mechanical saws, used for both brisket and back splitting, were also positive for L. monocytogenes. A total of 58 L. monocytogenes isolates were characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis typing. The isolates were divided into 18 pulsotypes, 15 of which were detected in pluck sets. In two slaughterhouses, where the carcasses were contaminated with L. monocytogenes, the same pulsotypes were also recovered from splitting saws. In addition, identical pulsotypes were recovered from pluck sets. Our findings indicate that L. monocytogenes of tongue and tonsil origin may contaminate the slaughtering equipment that may in turn spread the pathogen to carcasses. Thus, it is of the utmost importance to follow good manufacturing practices and to have efficient cleaning and disinfection procedures to prevent equipment being contaminated with L. monocytogenes.

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