Controlling the Hazards of Listeria in the Supermarket Deli

Controlling the Hazards of Listeria in the Supermarket Deli

Listeria monocytogenesis an especially pernicious foodborne pathogen and infection can lead to severe consequences, particularly in people with weakened immune systems such as older adults and pregnant women in whom infection can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth1.

1,600 people in the U.S. contract listeriosis (the disease caused by Listeria monocytogenes) each year; 260 die10, making it “by far the most deadly” foodborne illness.11

Approximately 67%of all listeriosis cases are associated with deli meats, and research from the USDA suggests that 83% of cases linked to deli meats are specifically associated with meats sliced at retail2,3. In fact, the USDA thinks the danger of Listeria in delis is so important they have developed an assessment tool that retail delis can use to help keep their products free from Listeria4.

Unlike most other bacterial pathogens, Listeria is able to grow under refrigerated temperatures as well as survive in higher-salt foods, like meats and cheeses, which normally deter microbial growth5. So, even if there is only a small number of Listeria organisms on these products in the beginning, they can replicate in the refrigerator and become a big problem.

The ability to grow at cold temperatures makes walk-in coolers and display cases a suitable home for this organism and a possible source of cross-contamination to ready to eat food products. It is vital to ensure that coolers are maintained at 41°F or colder because this will slow the growth of Listeria and other pathogens, and special care should be taken to make sure coolers are kept in a sanitary condition. Any surface that employees routinely touch such as door handles, on/off switches, and the display case should be cleaned and sanitized often6,7.

Although Listeria is a challenging organism, there are a few simple steps that supermarket delis can take to significantly lower their risk of selling contaminated products. For example, delis should consider selling meats with Listeria inhibitors as this significantly reduces its growth8. When it comes to cross-contamination from equipment, deli slicers, especially older models, are perhaps the most notorious offender because cracks and broken seals can harbor food soil and germs9. To reduce cross-contamination from deli slicers the 2013 Food Code requires that slicers be cleaned and sanitized at least every four hours7. Limiting foot traffic through the deli, wearing gloves while touching ready-to-eat products, and changing aprons often are all ways to minimize the risk of cross contamination in supermarket delis4.

Proper cleaning and sanitizing is extremely important, and it is critical to ensure that the materials you are using do not spread germs around the deli. The strength of sanitizing solutions need to be monitored to ensure efficacy as food and soil can inactivate it. Cloths, sponges, and mops should be sanitized after use, or single-use items like a wipe should be used6.

Sani Professional® No-Rinse Sanitizing Wipes can help prevent Listeria­­-associated illnesses and are the first no-rinse wipes on the market effective against Listeria. They are perfect to use in the display case, on cutting boards, and for frequent sanitizing of the deli slicer. Our EPA-registered formula kills 99.999% of foodborne pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus in 60 seconds and requires no rinsing.

To request more information about how Sani Professional® products can help improve your cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting procedures please contact us.