The New Zealand Seafood Standards Council (NZSSC), the seafood industry and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) have joined forces to develop a more robust and consistent approach to monitoring and dealing with Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat seafood.
The seafood industry had identified that the Listeria Circular 1995 (IAIS 003.9), which ready-to-eat seafood producers have been using to manage the pathogen, needed updating following international advances in how listeria Listeria was managed. A technical working group led by the NZSSC with representatives from industry, NZFSA and other experts undertook the review.
“Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that can cause a serious illness called listeriosis,” NZFSA specialist advisor Marion Castle says. “Although sickness is rare it can have serious consequences, especially for pregnant women who risk miscarrying or giving birth prematurely.”
The Listeria Monitoring Programme for Ready-to-Eat Seafood was developed with two facets; one for long shelf-life products and one for short shelf-life products. “There are inherently different risks associated with products that have a longer shelf-life, and these have been addressed through developing two different monitoring programmes,” Marion says.
The new monitoring programmes provide operators with clear direction on sampling frequency, number of samples needed and the steps to take if Listeria is detected in the processing environment or product.
“It is important to understand that finding this organism in the processing environment should not necessarily be seen as a bad thing. In fact, a detection can be a helpful indicator, as it means an operator’s looking in the right places and is able to take appropriate steps before the product is contaminated,” Marion says.
The revised Listeria Circular was published on May 20, 2010. All ready-to-eat seafood producers who operate under a Risk Management Programme are required to follow the Listeria Monitoring Programme for Ready-to-Eat Seafood by August 20, 2010. The exception is for those who have registered by then an alternative Listeria Monitoring Programme that provides an equivalent outcome as part of their Risk Management Programme.
NZFSA and NZSSC conducted workshops during June in Nelson and Auckland to assist affected producers with the implementation of the new programme and to explain the ideas and practical realities behind the monitoring regimes. Marion says the workshops provided a great opportunity to receive feedback from processors on any difficulties they had encountered so far in implementing the new monitoring programme.
More information can be found on NZFSA’s website:
Published in Seafood, August 2010