This study was undertaken to supplement existing information on the survival of Listeria monocytogenes in Italian salami. The fact that Italian salami is frequently consumed by a large number of people poses some serious health implications. Some raw materials have been found to be microbiologically contaminated, for their production occurs without any thermic treatment, and these are in circulation throughout Italy all year round. We selected the product for its microbiological, technological, and commercial characteristics. We analyzed 1,020 samples taken during the autumn and winter 2002 and spring and summer 2003 periods and immediately before selling. The samples were collected from 17 plants with an annual production of between 1 and 2,000 metric tons and with a distribution of products in over 80% of Italy in geographic terms. To detect and enumerate L. monocytogenes, we followed International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 11290 part 1 and 2: 1996 (modified using chromogenic medium Agar Listeria according to Ottarviani and Agosti [ALOA]). L. monocytogenes was found in 22.7% of samples, but the contamination level was less than 10 CFU/g. Contamination prevalence ranged from 1.6 to 58.3% and was lower than 10% in 5 of the 17 plants checked. The most frequently isolated serotypes were 1/2c, 1/2a, 1/2b, and 4b. Additional studies are necessary to establish if the exposure to a small number of L. monocytogenes cells through the consumption of salami represents a significant health risk and, in light of the future introduction of the SANCO/4198/2001 revision 21 “Commission Regulation on Microbiological Criteria for Foodstuffs,” is a necessary investigation.

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