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Prevalence and Molecular Diversity of Listeria monocytogenes in Retail Establishments

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As our understanding of Listeria monocytogenes transmission in retail and deli operations is limited, we conducted a cross-sectional study of L. monocytogenes contamination patterns in 121 retail establishments, using testing of food and environmental samples and subtype analysis (ribotyping) of L. monocytogenes isolates. Seventy-three (60%) establishments had at least one sample that tested positive for L. monocytogenes; 5 (2.7%) of the 183 food and 151 (13.0%) of the 1,161 environmental samples tested positive for L. monocytogenes, including 125 (16.7%) and 26 (6.3%) of non–food contact and food contact surface samples, respectively. Thirty-two EcoRI ribotypes were identified among the 156 L. monocytogenes isolated. Twenty-seven establishments had two or more L. monocytogenes with the same ribotype within a given establishment, including 9 establishments where isolates from 3 to 5 samples had the same ribotype. In 5 of 7 establishments where follow-up sampling was conducted 8 to 19 months after the initial sampling, isolates with the same ribotype were obtained in both samplings; persistence of a given strain was also confirmed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Our data indicate that (i) L. monocytogenes is regularly found in some retail environments; (ii) L. monocytogenes strains are often widely distributed in retail, indicating cross-contamination and dispersal; (iii) L. monocytogenes can persist in retail environments for more than 1 year; and (iv) a number of L. monocytogenes subtypes isolated at retail are common among human listeriosis cases. We also identified specific contamination patterns in retail establishments, providing critical information for the development of L. monocytogenes control strategies.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Food Laboratory Division, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, 10B Airline Drive, Albany, New York 2: Food Safety and Inspection Division, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, 10B Airline Drive, Albany, New York 3: Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA 4: Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA;, Email:

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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