Comprehensive Survey of Pasteurized Fluid Milk Produced in the United States Reveals a Low Prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes

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A comprehensive survey was undertaken to generate contemporary data on the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in pasteurized fluid milk produced in the United States. Samples (5,519) near the sell-by expiration date were purchased at retail outlets over a 5-week period and analyzed for presence of L. monocytogenes. Products consisted of whole milk, nonfat milk, and chocolate milk packaged in gallon, half gallon, quart, pint, and half-pint containers. Samples were collected from both large and small retail stores in urban and suburban locations in four FoodNet cities (Baltimore, Md., Atlanta, Ga., St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minn., and San Francisco, Calif.). Samples were prescreened for L. monocytogenes by the AOAC-approved rapid Vitek immunodiagnostic assay system, enzyme-linked fluorescent assay method. Positive prescreening samples were cultured according to the Bacteriological Analytical Manual, enumerated for L. monocytogenes with a nine-tube most-probable-number (MPN) procedure, and confirmed by biochemical characterization. The frequency of isolation of L. monocytogenes in these products was 0% (0 of 1,897) in whole milk, 0.05% (1 of 1,846) in nonfat milk, 0% (0 of 1,669) in chocolate milk, and 0% (0 of 107) in other (reduced fat and low fat) milk samples. Overall, L. monocytogenes was confirmed in only 0.018% of pasteurized milk samples (1 of 5,519). Enumeration of the single confirmed positive nonfat milk sample revealed low-level contamination (<0.3 MPN/g), even when sampled 5 days past the expiration of the sell-by date. The results confirm the low frequency of contamination of pasteurized fluid milk products by L. monocytogenes for products sold in the United States and reaffirm the reduction of contamination frequency of fluid milk by L. monocytogenes when compared with earlier estimates from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dairy Safety Initiatives Program.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: International Dairy Foods Association, 1250 H Street N.W., Suite 900, Washington, D.C. 20005, USA 2: Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Vermont, Carrigan Hall, Bington, Vermont 05405, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection® is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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