Minimising the risk of listeriosis

When you prepare or handle food, you need to know about procedures and control measures to minimise infection from Listeria bacteria.

Industry and government share responsibility for minimising the incidence of Listeria infection in humans. Some types of food businesses are particularly at risk of contamination with Listeria and need to follow particular procedures to ensure they minimise the risks. The risks and procedures can vary depending on your business. You can find further information about food safety requirements you need to meet in the section for your sector of the food industry.

Food sectors

There are also industry-wide procedures for managing cleaning, sanitation and personal hygiene which can help to minimise the incidence of foodborne illness. You can find these in the Good Operating Practice (GOP) section of the site.

Good Operating Practice (GOP)

Operators that are most at risk of spreading Listeria are:

  • growers and processors of plant products
  • manufacturers and retailers of ready-to-eat foods
  • workers in the food service and food retail industry.

Minimising risk in plant products

When you grow and/or supply plant products or plant materials, you need to provide products and materials that are of sufficient quality and safety to minimise the introduction of Listeria into the processing or food service premises. This may be achieved by:

  • applying good agricultural practice (GAP)
  • following assurance programmes for horticulture
  • meeting any specific customer requirements.

You can find out more about the food safety requirements for growers, processors and importers of plant products in the Plant products section of the website.

Plant products

Minimising risk in food manufacturing and retailing

Listeriosis is particularly associated with the consumption of chilled, long shelf-life ready-to-eat foods. If you sell, manufacture or process ready-to-eat foods, there are steps and measures that you can take to reduce the risk.

Processors and manufacturers of ready-to-eat foods

If Listeria has been identified as a potential hazard in your hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) system, it is important to identify specific measures to minimise the risk. This means that, as well as training staff, you need to implement hygienic procedures to:

  • prevent introduction of Listeria into the processing area
  • manage purchase of raw ingredients and materials
  • avoid re-contamination of ready-to-eat food products.

If you manufacture ready-to-eat foods, hygienic procedures and good operating practices during preparation and processing help to minimise contamination with Listeria. These practices include:

  • minimising the presence of Listeria in the processing area including equipment through effective cleaning and sanitation
  • limiting unnecessary access of people to processing areas
  • restricting movement of equipment between processing areas where raw or uncooked food is prepared and areas where you process cooked and ready-to-eat food
  • ensuring that staff follow personal hygiene procedures
  • grouping tasks and processes to prevent raw, intermediary or ready-to-eat foods being processed together
  • purchasing and operating equipment that is easily cleaned and sanitised so that there is no build-up of food waste or residues
  • conducting routine maintenance of the building and equipment to eliminate potential sources of contamination.

You can find out more about HACCP and Good Operating Practice (GOP) in the General requirements section of the site.

General requirements & programmes

If you manufacture ready-to-eat foods, there are steps you can take to limit any potential growth of Listeria after it has been packaged and throughout its shelf life. Listeria-specific critical control points aim to reduce the numbers of Listeria bacteria. For example, Listeria can be controlled through processes such as pasteurisation or cooking, or arranging appropriate chilled or frozen storage, product formulation or shelf-life.

You can find out more about the food safety requirements in the section of the website for manufacturers of food and beverages.

Manufacturers of food and beverages

Retailers of food

If you are a food retailer, you can reduce the occurrence of Listeria contamination by following safe food-handling procedures when slicing, repacking and serving foods. You should always store the food in refrigerators and chillers that operate at 4°C.

You can find out more about the food safety requirements for retailers in the Retail & wholesale section of the website.

Retail & wholesale

Minimising risk in the food service industry

In food service, it is important to follow safe handling procedures including those for display and storage, to help to prevent foods becoming contaminated with Listeria. Many of these are described in GOP in the General requirements section of the site.

General requirements & programmes

The procedures are important because Listeria are found everywhere and grow in food processing, storage and display areas. Food service staff play their part by:

  • following safe-handling procedures when slicing, repacking and serving foods
  • ensuring that refrigerators and chillers operate at 4°C
  • ensuring that foods are displayed for the correct time and at an appropriate holding temperature to minimise time in the 'danger zone', between 4°C and 60°C.

Further information for food service providers including those who serve food to vulnerable consumers is being prepared.

You can find out more about the food safety requirements for serving and handling food in the food service section of the website.

Food service

Related information

You can find a list of publications, documents, guidance and other resources to help you understand and meet your obligations for managing Listeria:

Listeria - resources and documents