5 years ago

Tracking of Listeria monocytogenes in meat establishment using Whole Genome Sequencing as a food safety management tool: A proof of concept

Repeated Listeria outbreaks particularly associated with Ready-To-Eat (RTE) delicatessen meat products have been reported annually at global level. The most frequent scenario that led to foodborne outbreaks was the post-thermal treatment cross-contamination of deli meat products during slicing and modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). The precondition for such cross contamination is the previous introduction of Listeria into meat processing facilities and subsequent colonization of the production environment, associated with formation of biofilms resilient to common sanitation procedures regularly applied in meat establishments. The use of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) can facilitate the understanding of contamination and colonization routes of pathogens within the food production environment and enable efficient pathogen tracking among different departments. This study aimed to: a) provide a proof of concept on practical use of WGS in a meat establishment to define the entry routes and spread pattern of L. monocytogenes, and b) to consider the regular use of WGS in meat processing establishments as a strong support of food safety management system. The results revealed that Listeria spp. was present in slaughter line, chilling chambers, deboning, slicing, MAP, as well as in corridors and dispatch (53 positive samples, out of 240). Eight L. monocytogenes isolates (out of 53) were identified from the slaughterhouse, chilling chambers, deboning, MAP and dispatch. L. monocytogenes isolates were of three different serotypes (1/2a, 1/2c, 4b) and correspondingly of three MLST sequence types. Overall, two pairs of L. monocytogenes isolates were genetically identical, i.e. two serotype 4b isolates (ST1), isolated from water drain at dispatch unit and two isolates obtained from slaughterhouse (floorwall junction at the carcass wash point) and MAP (water drain). These findings indicated that L. monocytogenes isolates identified in meat processing units (MAP, chilling chamber and dispatch) originated from the slaughter line. Further, all eight L. monocytogenes isolates were confirmed to be biofilm producers on glass and stainless steel surfaces. The identification of the main entry routes of L. monocytogenes into meat establishments and tracking the routes for spread of the pathogen are of essential importance to define appropriate risk mitigation strategies for L. monocytogenes in meat production environment. The routine use of WGS for bacterial characterization, as a strong support of food safety management system in meat establishments, will require the cost-effective approach. It may encompass in-house sequencing when sequencing equipment is used for multiple applications (e.g. WGS of pathogens, starter cultures and spoilage organisms).

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0168160517302830

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