Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen. A source of infection can be artisanal cheeses. Identification of the Listeria species is important for the protection of public health and the food industry. This study aimed to examine artisanal cheeses for the presence of L. monocytogenes and the effectiveness of the MALDI-TOF MS method in the identification of the L. monocytogenes isolates. A total of 370 samples of artisanal cheeses were examined. L. monocytogenes was found in 23 cheese samples (6.2%). The reliability of L. monocytogenes identification achieved by MALDI-TOF MS was varied, and the vast majority of the isolates (27/32) were identified only to the secure genus, probable species level. This study showed that (i) the occurrence of L. monocytogenes in the artisanal cheeses was at a higher level than that in the other EU countries, (ii) the standard of species identification of L. monocytogenes isolates from artisanal cheeses achieved by MALDI-TOF MS was not satisfactory and (iii) the presence of L. monocytogenes in artisanal cheeses remains a problem with regard to the food safety criterion and a potential public health risk.
Keywords: Listeria monocytogenes; MALDI-TOF MS; artisanal cheeses; food safety.