Food Safety Insights is a
Food Safety Magazine
and the food safety
market experts at
Strategic Consulting Inc.
to bring you the latest
market research, insights,
and trends in food
safety, analytical testing,
services, sanitation, and
related topics in quality
and safety testing and
assurance in the food
and beverage industry.
FOOD SAFETY INSIGHTS
Listeria: An Important Focus
of Environmental Monitoring
Looking at changes in Listeria
It is no secret that food processors are battling Lis- teria. The number of reported incidents and recalls related to Listeria has been increasing, and proces- sors are making efforts to rid their facilities of har- borage organisms. And, of course, South Africa is
recovering from what is understood to be the world’s
largest and most deadly listeriosis outbreak in history.
In the U.S., these concerns for food safety, as well
as new regulations and guidelines, particularly the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) draft guidance
published in mid-2017, have processors reevaluating
their testing programs—especially their environmental
monitoring (EM) programs. The onset of Food Safety
Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance dates and the
accompanying inspections along with the prospect of
FDA “swab-a-thons” has only accelerated this trend.
It was clear to us that testing for Listeria was growing faster than perhaps any other microbiological testing category, and we wanted to find out more.
In February, we surveyed 262 food processors
across all processing categories, including 200 in the
U.S. and Canada and 62 international processors. We
asked about overall test volumes and how they have
changed or may be changing in the next few years. We
also asked questions about specific changes to their
Listeria testing programs.
Changing Patterns in Testing
When asked if they would be changing the volume
of EM testing for Listeria, about 35 percent indicated
that they would be increasing the number of samples
that they collect, roughly 15 percent
indicated that they would be decreasing
their sampling, and the remaining one-
half indicated that they would be mak-
ing no change (Figure 1). Interestingly,
of those reducing their sampling, the
average reduction was about 18 percent,
but for those increasing their sampling,
the average increase was 107 percent.
These numbers, however, do not tell
the entire story, and the data are skewed
by some very large producers who are
planning very large changes in their test
For instance, of those companies
that indicated that they would be reducing their testing volumes, the five
companies with the largest change represented approximately 70 percent of
the change and a volume of just under
30,000 samples annually. Of those indicating that they would increase their
sampling, the five companies with the
largest change represented about 90
percent of the change in the sample and
about 330,000 samples annually—an
increase in sample volume more than
10 times that of the reduction.
The trend is that the larger companies that have already been doing a
higher volume of samples are refining
their programs but making only modest
By Bob Ferguson
Figure 1. How will your environmental
monitoring program for Listeria change next
Increase NoChange Decrease