Those with lengthy careers or students of food microbiology history may recall the original Listeria Hysteria in the 1980s. While Listeria monocytogenes was responsible for an outbreak associated with fluid milk earlier in the decade, the Jalisco Cheese-related outbreak in 1985 was a major eye opener for the food industry. In the ensuing years, multiple dairy products were found to contain Listeria monocytogenes. A few years after that, the Ready-to-Eat (RTE) meat industry was the center of attention relative to reported incidents of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. Over the next few years, fruits, vegetables, seafood, deli salads and other products were also found to contain Listeria monocytogenes.
Using numerous studies and investigational information from outbreaks, an industry consensus emerged. Listeria monocytogenes contamination in food items was primarily due to cross-contamination in the production environment. Specifically cool, moist environments were identified as the “usual suspects” for Listeria monocytogenes to hide out and grow in.