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Prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes and Other Listeria Species in Butter from United Kingdom Production, Retail, and Catering Premises

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Two recent listeriosis outbreaks involving butter prompted this first cross-sectional study on the prevalence, levels, and types of Listeria species in 3,229 samples of butter from production, retail, and catering premises in the United Kingdom during May and June 2004. When the criteria of the Microbiological Guidelines were used, 99.4% of samples were found to be of satisfactory microbiological quality, 0.5% were of acceptable quality, and 0.1% were of unsatisfactory quality as a result of high levels (>100 CFU/g) of Listeria spp. The butter samples with Listeria spp. present at more than 100 CFU/g were negative for L. monocytogenes. L. monocytogenes was detected in 0.4% (n = 13) of samples, all at levels of less than 10 CFU/g, and were therefore of acceptable quality. Butter was contaminated more frequently with Listeria spp., including L. monocytogenes, when packed in plastic tubs, when in pack sizes of 500 g or less, when stored or displayed above 8°C, when a hazard analysis system was not in place, and when the manager had received no food hygiene training. This study demonstrates that although butter is regarded as a low-risk product, it may provide an environment for the persistence and growth of Listeria spp., including L. monocytogenes. The control of L. monocytogenes in food processing and supply systems is critical in order to minimize the potential for this bacterium to be present in foods at the point of consumption at levels hazardous to health.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Gastrointestinal Infections Department, Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections, 61 Colindale Avenue, London, NW9 5EQ, UK 2: Health Protection Agency Wessex Environmental Microbiology Services, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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