– what I find remarkable is the level of preventive controls documented by the FDA for processing facilities versus retail deli – the requirements are much more detailed for processors.
There is not a mandatory requirement for monitoring for pathogens (Listeria) in Retail and the actual level of rigor in sanitation is vastly different. For example, the full disassembly of the slicer for cleaning and even the steaming of the slicers is common in a processing plant. Processing plant sanitation verification is directed through the usage of environmental sampling. The usage of ATP swabs would be a great improvement if Retail would use them more often to determine the effectiveness of the cleaning. Visible clean verification can be misleading and can be somewhat hard to calibrate with personnel.
Each Deli is a small processing plant and there are 1000s of them across the United States — mom and pop, large restaurant chains that have deli like operations and grocery stores. There is a great need for further education and the easy availability of resources to enhance compliance. In some ways, Listeria monocytogenes feels like E. coli 0157:H7 prior to the Jack in the Box event. There is a degree of awareness, but the complete push to implement strategies for prevention needs to be enhanced.
What is interesting is that of the illnesses from sliced refrigerated meats – 83 percent are from when a deli slices the meat versus presliced meat from the processor.