Listeria monocytogenes in Retail Delicatessens: An Interagency Risk Assessment-Risk Mitigations
Cross-contamination, improper holding temperatures, and insufficient sanitary practices are known retail practices that may lead to product contamination and growth of Listeria monocytogenes. However, the relative importance of control options to mitigate the risk of invasive listeriosis from ready-to-eat (RTE) products sliced or prepared at retail is not well understood. This study illustrates the utility of a quantitative risk assessment model described in a first article of this series (Pouillot, R., D. Gallagher, J. Tang, K. Hoelzer, J. Kause, and S. B. Dennis, J. Food Prot. 78: 134-145, 2015) to evaluate the public health impact associated with changes in retail deli practices and interventions. Twenty-two mitigation scenarios were modeled and evaluated under six different baseline conditions. These scenarios were related to sanitation, worker behavior, use of growth inhibitors, cross-contamination, storage temperature control, and reduction of the level of L. monocytogenes on incoming RTE food products. The mean risk per serving of RTE products obtained under these scenarios was then compared with the risk estimated in the baseline condition. Some risk mitigations had a consistent impact on the predicted listeriosis risk in all baseline conditions (e.g. presence or absence of growth inhibitor), whereas others were greatly dependent on the initial baseline conditions or practices in the deli (e.g. preslicing of products). Overall, the control of the bacterial growth and the control of contamination at its source were major factors of listeriosis risk in these settings. Although control of cross-contamination and continued sanitation were also important, the decrease in the predicted risk was not amenable to a simple solution. Findings from these predictive scenario analyses are intended to encourage improvements to retail food safety practices and mitigation strategies to control L. monocytogenes in RTE foods more effectively and to demonstrate the utility of quantitative risk assessment models to inform risk management decisions.