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Prevalence and Survival of Listeria monocytogenes in Danish Aquatic and Fish-Processing Environments

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Listeria monocytogenes contamination of ready-to-eat food products such as cold-smoked fish is often caused by pathogen subtypes persisting in food-processing environments. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether these L. monocytogenes subtypes can be found in the outside environment, i.e., outside food processing plants, and whether they survive better in the aquatic environment than do other strains. A total of 400 samples were collected from the outside environment, fish slaughterhouses, fish farms, and a smokehouse. L. monocytogenes was not detected in a freshwater stream, but prevalence increased with the degree of human activity: 2% in seawater fish farms, 10% in freshwater fish farms, 16% in fish slaughterhouses, and 68% in a fish smokehouse. The fish farms and slaughterhouses processed Danish rainbow trout, whereas the smokehouse was used for farm-raised Norwegian salmon. No variation with season was observed. Inside the processing plants, the pattern of randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) types was homogeneous, but greater diversity existed among isolates from the outside environments. The RAPD type dominating the inside of the fish smokehouse was found only sporadically in outside environments. To examine survival in different environments, L. monocytogenes or Listeria innocua strains were inoculated into freshwater and saltwater microcosms. Pathogen counts decreased over time in Instant Ocean and remained constant in phosphate-buffered saline. In contrast, counts decreased rapidly in natural seawater and fresh water. The count reduction was much slower when the natural waters were autoclaved or filtered (0.2-μm pore size), indicating that the pathogen reduction in natural waters was attributable to a biological mechanism, e.g., protozoan grazing. A low prevalence of L. monocytogenes was found in the outside environment, and the bacteria did not survive well in natural environments. Therefore, L. monocytogenes in the outer environment associated with Danish fish processing is probably of minor importance to the environment inside a fish production plant.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Seafood Research, Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Søltofts Plads, DTU Building 221, DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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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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