Temporal analysis of the Listeria monocytogenes population structure in floor drains during reconstruction and expansion of a meat processing plant.

Affiliation

Unit of Food Microbiology, Institute of Food Safety, Food Technology and Veterinary Public Health, Department of Farm Animal and Public Health in Veterinary Medicine, University of Veterinary Medicine, 1210 Vienna, Austria; Austrian Competence Center for Feed and Food Quality, Safety and Innovation, Technopark C, 3430 Tulln, Austria. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

Due to a higher probability for violation of hygiene measures, reconstruction work is a substantial food safety challenge for food business operators (FBOs). Here, we monitored a Listeria monocytogenes contamination scenario during a timely enduring reconstruction period that aimed at an expansion of the main building of a leading meat processing facility. Reconstruction took place while food production was ongoing. We used a longitudinal sampling scheme targeting 40 floor water drains distributed over the food processing environment (FPE) over a five year period. The population structure of L. monocytogenes was determined by PCR-serogrouping, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multi-locus sequence typing (MLST). While the first sampling deciphered a baseline of contamination (45%), intensified sanitation measures decreased L. monocytogenes prevalence before commencement of work (5%). The reconstruction activities increased the prevalence of L. monocytogenes in the FPE (20.5%) and changed the population structure to a higher proportion of disease-associated genotypes (61%). During the first sampling ST121 was prevalent throughout the FPE, even in the packaging area. After the second and third sampling, following increased application of hypochlorite during sanitation, ST121 was only present in the raw material preparation area. A resilient flora was detected during three sampling events (ST8, ST9 and ST37) which might have not been exposed to daily cleaning in the floor drains. After the accomplishment of reconstruction work, the L. monocytogenes population structure shifted to the condition initially found (45% and 20.5% during the first and sixth sampling event). This paper indicates that reconstruction phases are high risk episodes for food safety in FPEs. Special precautions must be taken to avoid cross-contamination of products since reconstruction is usually ongoing for extended periods of time.

Keywords

Floor drains,Food processing environment,Genotyping,Listeria monocytogenes,

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