Contamination of ready-to-eat products with Listeria monocytogenes may occur at several stages before consumption. Accessibility to the public and relatively limited control interventions at retail and food service establishments (compared with the processing sector of the food industry) and the lack of a specific regulatory framework increase the likelihood of introduction of this pathogen into some foods in these establishments. This review is a compilation of available information on the incidence and transmission of L. monocytogenes through ready-to-eat products at the retail and food service level. The potential transmission of L. monocytogenes within retail and food service operations has been indicated in epidemiological investigations and by survey data. Potential sources of the organism in these operations include the environment, food handlers, and incoming raw ingredients or processed products that have become contaminated after the lethality treatment at the manufacturing facility. L. monocytogenes may be present at retail and food service establishments in various ready-to-eat products, both prepackaged and those packaged in the store, and occasionally at high concentrations. This issue dictates the need for development and application of effective control measures, and potential control approaches are discussed here. Good manufacturing practices, appropriate cleaning, sanitation and hygiene programs, and temperature control required for prevention or inhibition of growth of the pathogen to high levels are critical for control of L. monocytogenes in the retail and food service sector. A comprehensive food safety system designed to be functional in retail and food service operations and based on the philosophy of hazard analysis and critical control point systems and a series of sound prerequisite programs can provide effective control of L. monocytogenes in these environments. However, competent delivery of food safety education and training to retail and food service managers and food handlers must be in place for successful implementation of such a system.

This content is only available as a PDF.