Listeria monocytogenes can colonize floor drains in poultry processing and further processing facilities, remaining present even after cleaning and disinfection. Therefore, during wash down, workers exercise caution to avoid spraying hoses directly into drains in an effort to prevent the escape and transfer of drain microflora to food contact surfaces. The objective of this study was to examine the extent to which an inadvertent water spray into a colonized floor drain can cause the spread of airborne Listeria. Listeria innocua was used to inoculate a polyvinyl chloride model floor drain, resulting in approximately 108 cells per ml of phosphate-buffered saline and 104 attached cells per square centimeter of inner surface. Each model drain was subjected to a 2-s spray of tap water at 68.9 kPa from a distance of 1 m. Drains were sprayed while filled and again after emptying. Airborne cells were collected by using sedimentation plates containing Listeria selective agar which were placed on the floor and walls of a contained room at incremental horizontal and vertical distances of 0.6, 1.2, 2.4, or 4.0 m from the drain. Sedimentation plates were exposed for 10 min. A mechanical sampler was used to also collect air by impaction on the surface of Listeria selective agar to determine the number of cells per liter of air. The experiment was conducted in triplicate rooms for each of four replications. L. innocua was detected on sedimentation plates on the floor as far as 4.0 m from the drain and on walls as high as 2.4 m above the floor and 4 m from the drain. A 2-s spray with a water hose into a contaminated drain can cause airborne spread of Listeria, resulting in the potential for cross-contamination of food contact surfaces, equipment, and exposed product.

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