The prevalence of carriage of Listeria spp. on the hands of food workers was investigated using a whole-hand impression plate technique. Ninety-nine workers engaged in food production and retailing were studied, with 75 clerical workers acting as control. Twelve (12%) of food workers carried Listeria spp., and 7 (7%) carried Listeria monocytogenes. None of the control group was positive for Listeria spp. Where the level of carriage was low (<20 CFU) hand washing eliminated the organisms, but hand washing was not successful if larger numbers of bacteria were present. In two instances hand washing appeared to have <u>caused</u> contamination of subjects' hands. Food workers are significantly more likely to carry Listeria spp. than clerical workers (P < 0.015 Fisher's exact test) and frequent hand washing represents an important element of hygiene which may interrupt transmission of these organisms.

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