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Detection of Virulence Genes and Growth Potential in Listeria monocytogenes Strains Isolated from Ricotta Salata Cheese

Coroneo, Valentina, Carraro, Valentina, Aissani, Nadhem, Sanna, Adriana, Ruggeri, Alessandra, Succa, Sara, Meloni, Barbara, Pinna, Antonella, Sanna, Clara
Journal of food science 2016 v.81 no.1 pp. M114
Listeria monocytogenes, ewe milk, food pathogens, genes, listeriosis, public health, ready-to-eat foods, refrigeration, risk, temperature, virulence, whey cheeses, Italy, Sardinia, United States
Ricotta Salata is a traditional ripened and salted whey cheese made in Sardinia (Italy) from sheep's milk. This product is catalogued as ready‐to‐eat food (RTE) since it is not submitted to any further treatment before consumption. Thus, foodborne pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes, can represent a health risk for consumers. In September 2012, the FDA ordered the recall of several batches of Ricotta Salata imported from Italy linked to 22 cases of Listeriosis in the United States. This study was aimed at evaluating the presence and virulence properties of L. monocytogenes in 87 samples of Ricotta Salata produced in Sardinia. The ability of this product to support its growth under foreseen packing and storing conditions was also evaluated in 252 samples. Of the 87 samples 17.2% were positive for the presence of L. monocytogenes with an average concentration of 2.2 log₁₀ cfu/g. All virulence‐associated genes (prfA, rrn, hlyA, actA, inlA, inlB, iap, plcA, and plcB) were detected in only one isolated strain. The Ricotta Salata samples were artificially inoculated and growth potential (δ) was assessed over a period of 3 mo. The value of the growth potential was always >0.5 log₁₀ cfu/g under foreseen packing and storing conditions. This study indicates that Ricotta Salata supports the L. monocytogenes growth to levels that may present a serious risk to public health, even while stored at refrigeration temperatures.