Vegetables & Fruits

Listeriosis Risk Assessment Tool Advances Frozen Food Safety

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New research funded by the Arlington, Virginia-headquartered Frozen Food Foundation, an affiliate of the American Frozen Food Institute, has resulted in the development of a modeling tool to assist the frozen food industry in its understanding and management of listeriosis risks. The findings are detailed in a paper entitled “An Assessment of Listeriosis Risk Associated with Contaminated Production of Frozen Vegetables Consumed Under Alternative Consumer Handling Scenarios,” published in the December 2019 issue of Journal of Food Protection.

The findings gleaned from a study conducted at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, were fundamental in developing a decision-making tool – Frozen Food Listeria Lot Risk Assessment (The FFLLoRA) – that incorporates several factors including individual facility attributes, Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) prevalence and consumer handling to estimate listeriosis risks.

“While Lm-related foodborne illness is rarely associated with frozen foods, the frozen food industry is focused on better understanding Listeria to prevent a listeriosis event from occurring,” said Frozen Food Foundation Executive Vice President Dr. Donna Garren. “That’s why we invest in scientific research from the frozen food facility to fork.”

Dr. Donna Garren

While researchers demonstrated that low-levels of Lm in frozen vegetables did not typically cause illness, the study also revealed the significance of production practices and finished-product testing, along with the role of consumers to follow validated cooking instructions.

“The goal of the research was to develop a tool for companies to assess individual production lot risks based on various scenarios,” said Cornell lead researchers Dr. Renata Ivanek and Dr. Martin Wiedmann. “FFLLoRA helps interpret and evaluate finished-product testing results and may support food safety decisions to prevent recalls.”

Dr. Claire Zoellner, lead author of the study, added: “Importantly, the study also identified key data gaps that will be prioritized in future research, including quantifying the need for consumers to follow validated cooking instructions.”

Cornell’s research on Lm will continue throughout 2020 to provide a better understanding of Lm prevalence in frozen food processing plants and related risk assessment. Additional frozen food industry Lm-related publications are available here.

“Through the work of the Frozen Food Foundation, the frozen food industry continuously builds upon its high food safety standards,” said Dr. Garren. “This published research complements the tools and resources available on The Food Safety Zone to help prevent and control Lm.”

To access the full paper click here.