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J Food Prot. 2012 Aug;75(8):1518-23. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-11-556.

Performance of three culture media commonly used for detecting Listeria monocytogenes.

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Laboratory of Food Quality Control and Hygiene, Department of Food Science and Technology, Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, Athens, Greece.


Listeria monocytogenes poses a serious threat to public health, and the majority of cases of human listeriosis are associated with contaminated food. Reliable microbiological testing is needed for effective control of this pathogen by the food industry and competent authorities. The aim of this study was to determine the performance of three culture media commonly used for detecting L. monocytogenes in foods. Minced pork meat samples (n = 100) were subjected to microbiological testing for L. monocytogenes according to International Organization for Standardization methods 11290-1:1996 and 11290-2:1998 using PALCAM, ALOA, and RAPID'L. mono culture media in parallel. Presence of the pathogen was confirmed by conducting biochemical and molecular tests on the presumptive L. monocytogenes colonies. Performance attributes of sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, positive and negative likelihood ratios, diagnostic odds ratios, error odds ratios, receiving operating characteristic (ROC) curve, and area under this curve were calculated from the presence-absence microbiological test results by combining the results obtained from the culture media and confirmative tests. PALCAM had the best performance in terms of positive predictive value (i.e., a positive result indicates high probability of L. monocytogenes presence) but not in terms of sensitivity (i.e., the ability of the medium to detect the pathogen when present). RAPID'L. mono was the most sensitive medium. None of the culture media were perfect for detecting L. monocytogenes in minced pork meat alone. The pathogen was detected in 16, 19, and 26% (apparent prevalence) of the samples by PALCAM, ALOA, and RAPID'L. mono, respectively, although the true prevalence of the pathogen was 22%. These findings indicate that the use of a single culture medium may lead to erroneous determination of the prevalence of L. monocytogenes.

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