Molecular ecology of Listeria monocytogenes and other Listeria species in small and very small ready-to-eat meat processing plants

Shanna K. Williams, Sherry Roof, Elizabeth A. Boyle, Dennis Burson, Harshavardhan Thippareddi, Ifigenia Geornaras, John N. Sofos, Martin Wiedmann, Kendra Nightingale

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33 Scopus citations


A longitudinal study was conducted to track Listeria contamination patterns in ready-to-eat meats from six small or very small meat processing plants located in three states over 1 year. A total of 688 environmental sponge samples were collected from nonfood contact surfaces during bimonthly visits to each plant. Overall, L. monocytogenes was isolated from 42 (6.1%) environmental samples, and its prevalence ranged from 1.7 to 10.8% across different plants. Listeria spp., other than L. monocytogenes, were isolated from 9.5% of samples overall, with the prevalence ranging from 1.5 to 18.3% across different plants. The prevalence of L. monocytogenes correlated well with that of other Listeria spp. for some but not all plants. One L. monocytogenes isolate representing each positive sample was characterized by molecular serotyping, EcoRI ribotyping, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis typing. Seven sample sites tested positive for L. monocytogenes on more than one occasion, and the same ribotype was detected more than once at five of these sites. Partial sigB sequencing was used to speciate other Listeria spp. isolates and assign an allelic type to each isolate. Other Listeria spp. were isolated more than once from 14 sample sites, and the same sigB allelic type was recovered at least twice from seven of these sites. One plant was colonized by an atypical hemolytic L. innocua strain. Our findings indicate that small and very small meat processing plants that produce ready-to-eat meat products are characterized by a varied prevalence of Listeria, inconsistent correlation between contamination by L. monocytogenes and other Listeria spp., and a unique Listeria molecular ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-77
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


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