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J Appl Bacteriol. 1996 Dec;81(6):641-50.

The incidence and level of Listeria monocytogenes contamination of food sources at primary production and initial processing.

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SAC Aberdeen, UK.


Listeria monocytogenes was isolated in low numbers from a variety of environmental samples associated with the primary production of food, including vegetation, faeces and meat. The organism was rarely detected on growing grass and vegetables prior to processing. The excretion of L. monocytogenes by farm animals was linked to their diet, with animals fed entirely on hay or manufactured diets not excreting detectable levels of Listeria (i.e. absence in 25 g). However, animals fed on silage, which is frequently contaminated with L. monocytogenes, commonly excreted the organism. Transport of live animals over long distances (> 100 km) significantly increased the level of excretion of Listeria, but the contamination of carcasses of sheep and cattle was not high. Pigs and poultry faeces were free of Listeria prior to slaughter and pig carcasses were not found to have Listeria present. Frozen and chilled chicken did show detectable levels reflecting the greater potential for contamination during poultry processing. Samples of minced beef were tested and 21 of 23 samples were positive for L. monocytogenes, demonstrating that processing significantly increases the level of contamination compared to whole carcasses. Multilocus enzyme electrophoresis of a representative selection of the isolates showed that there was a wide range of electrophoretic types present in the primary production environment, relatively few of which have been linked to cases of human listeriosis. However, these types do arise on farms and occasional contamination of food raw material by potentially virulent strains may be sufficient to allow adaptable strains to become established in the processing environment and thus be responsible for more widespread contamination of the food available to the consumer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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