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EFSA calls for Listeria risk data

By Joe Whitworth+

13-May-2014

Listeria Monocytogenes. Image copyright: Barbara Lund and Mary Parker
Listeria Monocytogenes. Image copyright: Barbara Lund and Mary Parker

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has launched a call for tender concerning Listeria Monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.

The objective is to provide the agency with a quantitative risk characterization of L. monocytogenes in various RTE food categories in the EU; starting from the retail stage.

Hazard identification, exposure assessment, hazard characterisation/dose-response and risk characterisation are the key areas of the tender.

In the European Union (EU) in 2012 1,642 confirmed human cases of listeriosis were reported including 198 deaths.

Listeria increase trend

The trend in reported human listeriosis cases has been gradually increasing over the past four years.

The main route of transmission to humans is through consumption of contaminated food.

Listeria can be found in raw foods and in processed foods that are contaminated during and/or after processing.

Because L. monocytogenes is able to multiply at low temperatures (2 to 4°C), ready-to-eat (RTE) foods with a relatively long shelf-life (fishery products, meat products and cheese) are of public health concern.

Objectives include a search and review of data and existing microbial risk assessments on listeriosis and L. monocytogenesin RTE foods and to determine the exposure of humans in the EU to L. monocytogenesfrom consumption of various RTE food categories.

Survey on prevalence

An EU-wide baseline survey (BLS) in 2010 and 2011 estimated the prevalence and contamination levels in three RTE foods at retail.

Packaged (not frozen) smoked or gravad fish (3,053 samples), packaged heat-treated meat products (3,530 samples) and soft or semi-soft cheeses, excluding fresh cheeses (3,452 samples).

The Part A reports on the prevalence estimates and analysis of the qualitative and quantitative survey test results was published in 2013.

EU prevalence of fish samples at the time of sampling was 10.4% and at the end of shelf-life 10.3%, for meat and cheese samples at the end of shelf-life the prevalences were 2.07% and 0.47%.

Terms of reference of Part B are (a) the analysis of factors related to the prevalence of contaminated foods, (b) the development of predictive models for the microbial growth of L. monocytogenesunder various storage conditions, and (c) the development of predictive models for compliance with L. monocytogenes food safety criteria in RTE foods.

Publication of this report is expected in July 2014, said EFSA.

The maximum budget EFSA has available is €85,000 and tender offers must be submitted by June 27 with a duration of 18 months after the contract is started.

Source: “Closing gaps for performing a risk assessment on Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods: activity 2, a quantitative risk characterization on L. monocytogenes in RTE foods; starting from the retail stage

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