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Tracking Listeria monocytogenes contamination and virulence-associated characteristics in the ready-to-eat meat-based food products industry according to the hygiene level

Henriques, A.R., Gama, L.T., Fraqueza, M.J.
International journal of food microbiology 2017 v.242 pp. 101-106
Listeria monocytogenes, antibiotics, cleaning, disk diffusion antimicrobial test, food contact surfaces, food industry, food safety, food surfaces, genes, genotyping, human diseases, hygiene, management systems, pathogens, polymerase chain reaction, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, ready-to-eat foods, sanitizing, serotypes, veterinary drugs
Listeria monocytogenes isolates collected from final products and food contact surfaces of 10 ready-to-eat meat-based food products (RTEMP) producing industries were analyzed to relate their virulence-associated characteristics and genetic profiles with the hygiene assessment of those industries. Together with sample collection, an audit was performed to evaluate the implemented food safety management system and to investigate the specific audit requisites more associated to the occurrence of those L. monocytogenes serogroups frequently related with human disease. L. monocytogenes was present in 18% of the samples. The isolates (n=62) were serogrouped and detection of virulence-associated genes inlA, inlB, inlC and inlJ, and also plcA, hlyA, actA and iap was done by multiplex PCR. After this initial characterization, selected isolates (n=31) were submitted to antibiotic resistance testing by the disk diffusion method for the currently most used human and veterinary antibiotics and resistance was low. These isolates were also subtyped by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Genotyping and serogrouping of L. monocytogenes isolates revealed a genetically diverse population. Our data indicate that contamination of final products does not seem to be uniquely related to the sampled food surfaces. The occurrence of those L. monocytogenes serogroups more commonly associated with human disease in industries with a high hygienic audit classification could be the result of a previous identification of the pathogen, with an enforcement of the hygiene program without recognizing the real source of contamination. This reinforces the importance of a conjoined diagnosis using audit data and microbiological testing. Food safety management systems of those industries need improvement, particularly in cleaning and sanitizing operations, analytical control, preventive maintenance, personal hygiene and root cause analysis.