Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) today called for submissions on plans to review existing limits for Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat foods.
The body said the reason for the proposal was due to the microbiological limits set in Standard 1.6.1 were established more than ten years ago by the code in December 2000.
The limit generally specified is “not detected in 25 g” and for read-to-eat products, a limit of 100 cfu per 25 g is allowed in one out of five samples. An amendment to Standard 1.6.1 is required to change the regulatory limits for L. monocytogenesin RTE foods, said FSANZ.
“Over time, foods other than those listed in Standard 1.6.1 have also been associated with listeriosis outbreaks (e.g. cooked chicken meat, RTE minimally processed fruits and vegetables),” said the proposal.
“For certain foods, the testing of L. monocytogenes in the production environment as well as other stages in the production system may be required to manage Listeria in the food supply.
“The role of regulatory end point limits in this context was not considered when Standard 1.6.1 was developed,” it added.
Steve McCutcheon, FSANZ chief executive officer, said that since limits were first set, preventative food safety requirements and new limits had been established internationally.
“These changes mean it’s time for FSANZ to review the limits in the code to ensure we are providing a nationally consistent approach and where possible, harmonising our standards with those set by international standard-setting bodies,” he said.
“FSANZ is also exploring what tools would need to be developed to help industry and enforcement agencies apply any new approach.”
Options being considered
Three options are being considered:
- to include limits in Standard 1.6.1 for L.monocytogeneson the basis of whether the food is ready-to-eat and can or cannot support its growth
- to delete the limits for L. monocytogenes in Standard 1.6.1 and establish reference criteria for L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat food on the basis of whether it can or cannot support its growth
- make no amendments to the limits in Standard 1.6.1 (status quo)
“Control measures that prevent the occurrences of high levels of contamination at consumption are expected to have the greatest impact on reducing rates of listeriosis,” the proposal concluded.
The review of the limits for L. monocytogenes is the first stage of a broader review of the code.
The closing date for submissions on Proposal P1017 is 16 November.