In 1985, California experienced a food borne illness outbreak that caused 142 cases of listeriosis resulting in 52 fatalities (including 10 infants and 19 stillbirths). The food source of the outbreak was a Mexican style soft cheese (Queso Fresco) made by Jalisco that was infected with unsafe levels of the bacterium known as Listeria monocytogenes. The root cause of the issue was that a non-licensed technician performed the pasteurization process and non-pasteurized milk made it into the production line. Listeria causes an infection called listeriosis, which is usually a mild illness for pregnant women, but it causes severe disease in the fetus or newborn baby. Some people with Listeria infections - most commonly adults 65 years and older and people with weakened immune systems - develop severe infections of the bloodstream (causing sepsis) or brain (causing meningitis or encephalitis). According the the CDC on average 1600 people are infected each year and 260 die.
Fast forward 21 years and Listeria has not gone away! According to the FDA, there were hundreds of recalls in 2016 for manufactured food products. Most common reasons for recalls are undeclared allergens, Salmonella and Listeria. Listeria was a factor in recalls of these products:
RTE sandwiches, RTE salads, (ready-to-eat foods do not go through a further cooking process which kills bacterium), organic vegetables, cantaloupes, broccoli salad, cut apples, sausage and egg muffins, biscuits, fried rice, trail mix, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cookie dough, frozen corn, cut green beans, potato salad, herring, frozen waffles, pasta salad, smoked salmon, hummus and tens of thousands of gallons of ice cream from dozens of ice cream brands that were tainted with listeria-infected cookie dough from one supplier. Additionally ,in 2016 the USDA (which regulates meat, poultry and eggs) listed Listeria related recalls for 2,058,777 pounds of meat and poultry products from A. Windsor, Inc. and 363,888 pounds of hotdogs from B-S Foods!
Why is Listeria so prevalent and dangerous? Listeria, like many other bacterium, can be killed through normal heat treatment processes such as pasteurization or cooking. What sets listeria apart from most other bacterium is it’s ability to grow in cold temperatures. Most bacterium do not grow well in temperatures less than 41ºF. Listeria on the other hand can grow at temperatures as low as 32ºF and thus refrigerated and RTE food are very susceptible to growth of the Listeria Bacterium.
Restaurant Class has a Certified HACCP Manager and Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) on staff. We can help food manufacturing operations write food safety plans and/or validate the effectiveness of food safety procedures with food safety audits and on-site testing for the presence of pathogens such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7. Additionally, we can test your equipment and facilities for the presence of allergens such as eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, crustacea, soy, milk and gluten.
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