Prevalence and challenge tests of Listeria monocytogenes in Belgian produced and retailed mayonnaise-based deli-salads, cooked meat products and smoked fish between 2005 and 2007

Int J Food Microbiol. 2009 Jul 31;133(1-2):94-104. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2009.05.002. Epub 2009 May 9.


Processed ready-to-eat (RTE) foods with a prolonged shelf-life under refrigeration are at risk products for listeriosis. This manuscript provides an overview of prevalence data (n=1974) and challenge tests (n=299) related to Listeria monocytogenes for three categories of RTE food i) mayonnaise-based deli-salads (1187 presence/absence tests and 182 challenge tests), ii) cooked meat products (639 presence/absence tests and 92 challenge tests), and iii) smoked fish (90 presence/absence tests and 25 challenge tests), based on data records obtained from various food business operators in Belgium in the frame of the validation and verification of their HACCP plans over the period 2005-2007. Overall, the prevalence of L. monocytogenes in these RTE foods in the present study was lower compared to former studies in Belgium. For mayonnaise-based deli-salads, in 80 out of 1187 samples (6.7%) the pathogen was detected in 25 g. L. monocytogenes positive samples were often associated with smoked fish deli-salads. Cooked meat products showed a 1.1% (n=639) prevalence of the pathogen. For both food categories, numbers per gram never exceeded 100 CFU. L. monocytogenes was detected in 27.8% (25/90) smoked fish samples, while 4/25 positive samples failed to comply to the 100 CFU/g limit set out in EU Regulation 2073/2005. Challenge testing showed growth potential in 18/182 (9.9%) deli-salads and 61/92 (66%) cooked meat products. Nevertheless, both for deli-salads and cooked meat products, appropriate product formulation and storage conditions based upon hurdle technology could guarantee no growth of L. monocytogenes throughout the shelf-life as specified by the food business operator. Challenge testing of smoked fish showed growth of L. monocytogenes in 12/25 samples stored for 3-4 weeks at 4 degrees C. Of 45 (non-inoculated) smoked fish samples (13 of which were initially positive in 25 g) which were subjected to shelf-life testing, numbers exceeded 100 CFU/g in only one sample after storage until the end of shelf-life. Predictive models, dedicated to and validated for a particular food category, taking into account the inhibitory effect of various factors in hurdle technology, provided predictions of growth potential of L. monocytogenes corresponding to observed growth in challenge testing. Based on the combined prevalence data and growth potential, mayonnaise-based deli-salads and cooked meat products can be classified as intermediate risk foods, smoked fish as a high risk food.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Belgium
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Egg Yolk / microbiology*
  • Fish Products / microbiology*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Listeria monocytogenes / growth & development*
  • Listeriosis / prevention & control
  • Meat Products / microbiology*
  • Vegetables / microbiology*