Listeria monocytogenes contamination in dairy plants: evaluation of Listeria monocytogenes environmental contamination in two cheese-making plants using sheeps milk

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Michela Ibba *
Francesca Cossu
Vincenzo Spanu
Salvatore Virdis
Carlo Spanu
Christian Scarano
Enrico P.L. De Santis
(*) Corresponding Author:
Michela Ibba |


Listeria monocytogenes harbouring niches established in the processing plant support post-process contamination of dairy products made from pasteurised or thermised milk. The present study investigated L. monocytogenes environmental contamination in two sheep’s milk cheese-making plants. Persistence of contamination in the area at higher risk was also investigated. During a one-year survey 7 samplings were carried out in each dairy plant, along the production lines of Pecorino Romano and ricotta salata cheese. A total of 613 environmental samples collected from food contact and non-food contact surfaces were analysed according to ISO 11290-1:2005 standard method. Identification of the isolated strains was carried out by polymerase chain reaction. L. monocytogenes prevalence was 23.2% in dairy A and 13.1% in dairy B, respectively. The higher prevalence rate was found in the following areas: salting, products washing, packaging, ricotta salata storage and Pecorino Romano ripening rooms. L. monocytogenes was never found in the cheese-making area. The probability of observing samples positive for the presence of L. monocytogenes was asso- ciated with dairy plant, sampling area and the period of cheese-making (P<0.001). The greater persistence of contamination over time was observed in the washing, salting, and Pecorino Romano ripening areas. The control of persistent environmental contamination relies on the identification of L. monocytogenes niches within the processing environment and the prevention of harborage sites formation. The importance of strict cleaning and sanitising procedure in controlling L. monocytogenes environmental contamination is confirmed by the lower level of contamination observed after these procedures were correctly implemented.

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