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Molecular studies on the ecology of Listeria monocytogenes in the smoked fish processing industry

Norton, D.M., McCamey, M.A., Gall, K.L., Scarlett, J.M., Boor, K.J., Wiedmann, M.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2001 v.67 no.1 pp. 198-205
Listeria monocytogenes, food contamination, microbial contamination, smoked fish, salmon, fish industry, polymerase chain reaction, DNA fingerprinting, food processing, genetic techniques and protocols, ribosomal DNA, food processing equipment, ribotypes
We have applied molecular approaches, including PCR-based detection strategies and DNA fingerprinting methods, to study the ecology of Listeria monocytogenes in food processing environments. A total of 531 samples, including raw fish, fish during the cold-smoking process, finished product, and environmental samples, were collected from three smoked fish processing facilities during five visits to each facility. A total of 95 (17.9%) of the samples tested positive for L. monocytogenes using a commercial PCR system (BAX for Screening/Listeria monocytogenes), including 57 (27.7%) environmental samples (n = 206), 8 (7.8%) raw material samples (n = 102), 23 (18.1%) samples from fish in various stages of processing (n = 127), and 7 (7.3%) finished product samples (n = 96). L. monocytogenes was isolated from 85 samples (16.0%) using culture methods. Used in conjunction with a 48-h enrichment in Listeria Enrichment Broth, the PCR system had a sensitivity of 91.8% and a specificity of 96.2%. To track the origin and spread of L. monocytogenes, isolates were fingerprinted by automated ribotyping. Fifteen different ribotypes were identified among 85 isolates tested. Ribotyping data established possible contamination patterns, implicating raw materials and the processing environment as potential sources of finished product contamination. Analysis of the distribution of ribotypes revealed that each processing facility had a unique contamination pattern and that specific ribotypes persisted in the environments of two facilities over time (P less than or equal to 0.0006). We conclude that application of molecular approaches can provide critical information on the ecology of different L. monocytogenes strains in food processing environments. This information can be used to develop practical recommendations for improved control of this important food-borne pathogen in the food industry.