ABSTRACT

Listeria monocytogenes is a persistent public health concern in the United States and is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness. Cross-contamination of L. monocytogenes (between contaminated and uncontaminated equipment, food, and hands) is common in delicatessens and likely plays a role in the foodborne illness associated with retail deli meats. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Environmental Health Specialists Network conducted a study to describe deli characteristics related to cross-contamination with L. monocytogenes. The study included 298 retail delis in six state and local health departments' jurisdictions and assessed how well deli practices complied with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Code provisions. Among delis observed using wet wiping cloths for cleaning, 23.6% did not store the cloths in a sanitizing solution between uses. Observed potential cross-contamination of raw meats and ready-to-eat foods during preparation (e.g., same knife used on raw meats and ready-to-eat foods, without cleaning in between) was present in 9.4% of delis. In 24.6% of delis with a cold storage unit, raw meats were not stored separately from ready-to-eat products in containers, bins, or trays. A proper food safety management plan can reduce gaps in cross-contamination prevention and should include adopting procedures to minimize food safety risks, instituting training with instruction and in-person demonstrations and certifying staff on those procedures, and monitoring to ensure the procedures are followed.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cross-contamination related to food preparation was observed in 9.4% of delis.

  • In 24.6% of delis, raw meats were not stored separately from ready-to-eat products.

  • A proper food safety management plan can reduce gaps in cross-contamination prevention.

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