Fight Listeria Outbreaks with High Pressure Processing

This summer and fall, there have been three listeria outbreaks in the EU—in Spain, England, and the Netherlands—resulting in multiple deaths, people hospitalized, hundreds ill, and over 130 products recalled.
One of the most effective and proven ways to fight listeria is High Pressure Processing.
The bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, most commonly found in processed meats and raw foods, can cause an illness called listeriosis. Most afflicted people only experience flu-like stomach distress, but children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems can have much more severe symptoms, including miscarriage and even death.
There are around 1,600 recorded cases of listeriosis in the United States every year, and nearly a sixth of those cases result in death.
As prepackaged, ready-to-eat (RTE) foods become more popular, the risk of listeria contamination increases. Contaminated food from one packager, as in the outbreak in the Netherlands, can spread quickly across a large area. In Spain, the contamination occurred in a popular tourist destination, affecting hundreds of people. The most troubling case occurred in the United Kingdom, where six people died after eating contaminated food in hospitals.
The best way to minimize the risk of listeria outbreaks is to implement additional precautions during packaging and processing. An effective process for both roles is High Pressure Processing, or HPP.
HPP is proven to be effective at eliminating Listeria in foods. In 2002, JBTAvure was contacted by the USDA for details on the effect of using HPP to control listeria. Instead, the company conducted a comprehensive study with the bacteria in RTE meat products and submitted its findings.
In combination with other studies, the USDA found the results satisfactory and issued a Letter of No Objection, including HPP as an approved post-lethality treatment for the elimination of foodborne pathogens in 2006. In the time since HPP has seen widespread adoption by companies that produce a wide variety of foods.
According to JBTAvure’s Vice President of Food Science and Microbiology, Dr. Errol Raghubeer, “It is reasonably correct to say that much, if not most, of the RTE/deli meat and poultry products sold in the US, are treated by HPP, particularly products labeled as natural and without chemical preservatives.”
With such an effective track record at eliminating foodborne pathogens, such as listeria, and facilitating clean-label food safety, it’s no wonder HPP’s use is slated to double in six years.