Sécurité sanitaire et qualité des aliments

Expert body to discuss Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods


A group of experts, convened by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA), have now started a three-week meeting to provide the Codex with updated scientific advice on Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. The virtual meeting, chaired by Catherine Donnelly, includes participation by scientific excellence from around the world: Ana Allende, Sukhadeo Barbuddhe, Anne Brisabois, Brecht Devleesschauwer, Qingli Dong, Jeff Farber, Lisbeth Truelstrup Hansen, Alejandra Latorre, Alexandre Leclercq, Kudakwashe Magwedere, Deon Mahoney, Dorothy-Jean McCoubrey, Tom Ross, Elliot Ryser, Martin Wiedmann and Marcel Zwietering.

In 2004, FAO and WHO published the risk assessment of L. monocytogenes in RTE foods, the primary vehicle of foodborne listeriosis, also considering the susceptible populations. The report was focused on pasteurized milk, ice cream, fermented meat and cold-smoked fish. Since the publication of the FAO and WHO risk assessment in 2004, outbreaks of illness attributed to L. monocytogenes continue to happen around the globe, including outbreaks linked to additional RTE foods, such as lettuce, packaged salads, cantaloupe, rockmelons, caramel apples and frozen vegetables. There has also been significant improvement in surveillance and diagnostic tools targeting L. monocytogenes that need to be considered.

Listeria can be found in different environments - not only in the faeces of some animals, but also in sink drains and on refrigerator shelves, in soil, water and on vegetation. This is why it can contaminate foods. What makes L. monocytogenes unique is its ability to grow at low temperatures, but luckily it is easily killed by heat. Consuming food products contaminated with L. monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, a serious disease especially in susceptible populations, such as the elderly, immunocompromised and pregnant women.

The meeting now underway will examine new research and data for L. monocytogenes in different food commodities and geographical regions to validate the current risk assessment models for L.monocytogenes, and inform risk management approaches to control this disease-causing bacteria.

Read more about the Joint FAO/WHO Expert meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Food: Attribution, Characterization and Monitoring

Share this page