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Guidance on Environmental Monitoring and Control of Listeria for the Fresh Produce Industry

United Fresh Produce Association

Year Published:

The United Fresh Food Safety & Technology Council developed this guidance document for the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry.

Fresh-cut operations have long had environmental monitoring procedures for L. monocytogenes, although perhaps without targeting the pathogen with as much of a priority as it may deserve. It is now recognized that superficial monitoring for the organism is insufficient for operations that are vulnerable to Listeria harborage, and a proactive “deep dive” approach is warranted; i.e., assuming that the organism can establish itself in the facility, recognizing that monitoring procedures will need to be structured for each operation and will need to evolve, and having procedures to continuously “seek and destroy”.

We also have to recognize that, for many facilities, these changes will have to be progressive, not all at once, so it is important to know the sequence of what must be changed now, and what can be changed as resources become available.

Numerous guidance documents and publications have been developed in the past 30 years, describing effective monitoring and control procedures for L. monocytogenes in RTE operations. Many of the recommendations in those documents are also applicable to fresh, raw agricultural commodity (RAC) packing, cooling and shipping operations. However, fresh and fresh-cut produce handling offers some unique opportunities and challenges, which will be described in depth in this guidance.

This guidance is intended to be applicable to all fresh and fresh-cut produce operations, including field and field packing, packinghouse and other produce handling operations including re-pack, value-added and transport/distribution to retail/ foodservice, recognizing that vulnerability to L. monocytogenes contamination and entrenchment in equipment or a facility will depend on the type(s) and production region of the commodities handled and the nature of the handling. All produce handling operations are encouraged to use this guidance 1) to determine their level of vulnerability to Listeria harborage that may lead to produce contamination and 2) if vulnerable, to develop and implement an effective Listeria monitoring and control program.
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United Fresh Produce Association
1901 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: 202 303 3400
Fax: 202 303 3433