Application of Bacteriophage in Food Manufacturing Facilities for the Control of Listeria monocytogenes and Listeria sp

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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this research was to determine if bacteriophage (phage) could be used to treat and reduce the incidence of Listeria in food manufacturing facilities, and thereby reduce the risk of food products being cross-contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria incidence in food manufacturing ready-to-eat environments was surveyed at 31 ready-to-eat (RTE) food plants. A total 4,829 samples were collected from all locations. Nine (29%) facilities had zero samples positive for Listeria spp., whereas 22 (71%) had one or more samples positive. The total incidence of Listeria spp. in all RTE food plants was 4.5%.

The effectiveness of phage against Listeria was determined when applied to stainless steel, polyurethane thermoplastic, and epoxy. Each material was inoculated with a cocktail containing L. monocytogenes and L. innocua (4 to 5-log10 CFU/cm2) and treated with two different concentrations of phage (2x10^7 and 1x10^8 PFU/cm2). Treated samples were held at 4 or 20°C for 1 and 3h. After treatment with phage, Listeria reductions ranged from 1.27–3.33 log10 CFU/cm2 on stainless steel, 1.17–2.76 log10 CFU/cm2 on polyurethane thermoplastic, and 1.19–1.76 log10 CFU/cm2 on epoxy. Listeria reduction occurred on all materials tested, under all conditions. Higher phage concentration, longer time, and higher environmental temperatures led to significantly (P<0.05) greater reduction of Listeria on stainless-steel and polyurethane thermoplastic.

The effectiveness of a phage against Listeria spp. was evaluated in two food manufacturing facilities, operating at either 4°C or 20°C. First, a moderate application of a 2x10^7 PFU/mL phage was applied once per day over three days and samples were collected and analyzed for Listeria at 0, 24, 48 and 72 h. This phage treatment led to a decrease in the incidence of Listeria by 67%. A second application method was studied with phage being applied in the food manufacturing environment in an intensified manner (3 times in 18 hours) at a higher concentration of phage (1x10^8 pfu/mL). This intensified application led to a 32% overall reduction in the incidence of Listeria in the production environment. Applications of Listeria specific phage can be an additional intervention strategy for controlling pathogenic Listeria organisms in food production facilities.



Listeria, bacteriophage, food contact surface, food manufacturing, USDA, FDA