The presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the pork production chain was followed from farm to slaughterhouse by examining the farm and slaughterhouse levels in the same 364 pigs, and finally by analyzing the cut meats from the same pig lots. Both organic and conventional farms were included in the study. Altogether, 1,962 samples were collected, and the 424 L. monocytogenes isolates were analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. The results from microbial analyses were combined with data from an on-farm observation and a questionnaire to clarify the associations between farm factors and prevalence of L. monocytogenes. The prevalence of L. monocytogenes was 11, 1, 1, 24, 5, 1, and 4% in feed and litter, rectal swabs, intestinal contents, tonsils, pluck sets (including lungs, heart, liver, and kidney), carcasses, and meat cuts, respectively. The prevalence was significantly higher in organic than in conventional pig production at the farm and slaughterhouse level, but not in meat cuts. Similar L. monocytogenes genotypes were recovered in different steps of the production chain in pigs originating from the same farm. Specific farm management factors, i.e., large group size, contact with pet and pest animals, manure treatment, use of coarse feed, access to outdoor area, hygiene practices, and drinking from the trough, influenced the presence of L. monocytogenes in pigs. L. monocytogenes was present in the production chain, and transmission of the pathogen was possible throughout the chain, from the farm to pork. Good farm-level practices can therefore be utilized to reduce the prevalence of this pathogen.
† Present address: European Food Safety Authority, Largo N Palli 5/a, 43100 Parma, Italy.