1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Quantify the occurrence of L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat, cheese, and deli-salads obtained from retail establishments. a) Screen foods for the presence/absence of the pathogen; b) Determine levels of the pathogen in positive samples; c) Subtype multiple isolates from each positive sample.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Work with FDA and USDA/FSIS and attendant industry partners to collect/purchase targeted food samples from retail establishments from multiple retail establishments from within four FoodNet States over an 12 to 18-month period. Test samples for presence/absence of the pathogen. Determine levels of the pathogen in each positive sample by direct plating, enrichment, and/or most probable number analyses. Retain multiple isolates from each positive sample for subsequent molecular subtyping.
3. Progress Report
Over the past decade, the Federal government has focused significant resources on reducing foodborne illness from ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. However, despite these efforts, foodborne illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) and associated with RTE foods continues. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have an interest in obtaining more current information on the association of Lm (i.e., rates, amounts, and subtypes) with RTE foods to evaluate the relative public health risk. This information is essential for both Agencies to effectively allocate resources to mitigate public health risks associated with Lm. While there is more current data for Lm in retail deli meats, corresponding data for other RTE foods (e.g., cheese, milk, raw fruits and vegetables, and deli salads) have not been comprehensively estimated since a survey conducted about ten years ago by the National Food Processors Association (NFPA). Thus, FDA provided funding to the United States Department of Agriculture, ARS, to partially support a study on the analysis of food samples collected at retail to determine the prevalence, levels, and subtypes of Lm associated with RTE foods. In Phase I of this FDA/ARS interagency agreement, we have started to collect and test some 8000 RTE samples comprised of the following seven FDA-regulated product categories: smoked seafood, seafood salad, low acid cut fruits, soft ripened and semi-soft cheese, deli-type salads, raw milk, and sandwiches (Table 1). Sampling will take place in four FoodNet sites (California, Maryland, Connecticut and Georgia) over a 1-year period from approximately December 2010 – December 2011.