A total of 257 raw fish samples at two different sites were examined for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. The prevalence of L. monocytogenes was 4%. From 11 positive samples, nine different L. monocytogenes pulsed-field gel electrophoresis genotypes were recovered. From nine pulsotypes recovered from raw fish and 32 pulsotypes shown by 101 fish product isolates, two raw fish and fish product pulsotypes were indistinguishable from each other. Although the prevalence of L. monocytogenes in raw fish is low, the range of L. monocytogenes strains entering the processing plant in large amounts of raw material is wide. This indicates that the raw material is an important initial contamination source of L. monocytogenes in fish processing plants. This postulation is supported by the identical pulsotypes recovered from both raw and processed fish. Some L. monocytogenes strains entering a plant may thus contaminate and persist in the processing environment, causing recurrent contamination of the final products via processing machines.
† Present address: National Veterinary and Food Research Institute (EELA), Kuopio Department, P.O. Box 92, FI-70701 Kuopio, Finland.