This study compared three methods for the recovery of Listeria monocytogenes from commercially prepared and vacuum-packaged frankfurters that were inoculated with a five-strain mixture of this pathogen at averages of 22 and 20,133 CFU per package over three trials. The presence and levels of the pathogen were determined by (i) the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) product composite enrichment method, involving the selective enrichment of a 25-g composite of product and the subsequent plating of this product onto selective agar plates; (ii) the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) product composite rinse method, involving the rinsing of a 25-g composite of product with 0.1% peptone water and the subsequent plating of a portion of the rinse fluid directly onto selective agar plates; and (iii) the USDA-ARS package rinse method, involving the use of 25 ml of 0.1% peptone water to rinse the entire contents of a package and the subsequent plating of a portion of the rinse fluid directly onto selective agar plates. For packages inoculated with 20,133 CFU, L. monocytogenes was recovered at a frequency (percentage of packages positive) of 100% by each of the three methods. The pathogen was recovered at efficiencies (percentages of recovery of L. monocytogenes) of 43 and 94% with the USDA-ARS product rinse method and the USDA-ARS package rinse method, respectively. For packages inoculated with 22 CFU, L. monocytogenes was recovered at frequencies of 17, 10, and 100% by the USDA-FSIS product composite enrichment method, the USDA-ARS product composite rinse method, and the USDA-ARS package rinse method, respectively. The pathogen was recovered at efficiencies of 20 and 95% with the USDA-ARS product composite rinse method and the USDA-ARS package rinse method, respectively. In a related study, the USDA-ARS package rinse method was the only method that detected the pathogen in 60 packages from each of five brands of frankfurters purchased from local grocery stores. These data establish that the USDA-ARS package rinse method is markedly more sensitive, as well as demonstrably more rapid and facile, than either the approved USDA-FSIS product composite enrichment method or the USDA-ARS product composite rinse method in determining the presence or absence of L. monocytogenes and establishing the levels of the pathogen that may be on the surface of ready-to-eat foods such as frankfurters.

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Author notes

Mention of brand or firm names does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture over others of a similar nature not mentioned.

Portions of this research were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists, 23 to 27 June 2001, New Orleans, Louisiana (9).