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Int J Food Microbiol. 2004 Feb 15;91(1):1-11.

Recontamination as a source of pathogens in processed foods.

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Laboratory of Food Microbiology, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 8129, NL-6700 EV Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Food products that have been submitted to an adequate heat-treatment during processing are free of vegetative pathogens and, depending on the treatments, of sporeformers and are generally regarded as safe. Processed products such as pâté, ice cream, infant formulae and others have nevertheless been responsible for food-borne illnesses. Thorough epidemiological investigations of several of these outbreaks have demonstrated that the presence of vegetative pathogens such as Salmonella spp. or Listeria monocytogenes in the consumed products was frequently due to post-process recontamination. The majority of studies on pathogens in foods are devoted to investigations on their presence in raw materials or on their growth and behaviour in the finished products. Reference to recontamination is, however, only made in relatively few publications and very little is published on the sources and routes of these pathogens into products after the final lethal processing step. The investigation of an outbreak, including epidemiological studies and typing of strains, is very useful to trace the origin and source of the hazard. Published data demonstrate that the presence of pathogens in the vicinity of unprotected product in processing lines represents a significant risk of recontamination. Microbiological Risk Assessment studies can be conducted as part of governmental activities determining appropriate protection levels for populations. Although recontamination has been identified as a relevant cause of food incidences, it is often not considered in such studies. This paper advocates that an effort should be made to develop our knowledge and information on recontamination further and start using it systematically in the exposure assessment part of Microbiological Risk Assessment studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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