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Test results assessing Listeria monocytogenes in refrigerated ready-to-eat food all satisfactory

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (August 8) announced the results of a targeted food surveillance project assessing Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat food kept under refrigeration. All 388 samples passed the test.

     "A total of 388 samples of ready-to-eat food kept under refrigeration, including frozen confections, meat, aquatic products, milk, dairy products, cut fruit, salads, sandwiches and bakery products, were collected from over 200 different locations, including food premises, food factories, supermarkets, convenience stores, mobile vans, retail outlets and importers, between January and June this year for testing for Listeria monocytogenes," a spokesman for the CFS said.

     "In the past two years, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has recorded an increasing number of Listeriosis cases. This disease is usually caused by eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and may pose significant health risks to pregnant women, newborns, elderly and those with a weaker immune system," the spokesman said.

     "Although Listeria monocytogenes can be killed under normal cooking temperatures, it may continue to grow slowly at refrigerated temperatures as low as zero degree Celsius. This characteristic makes refrigerated ready-to-eat food with a long shelf life (longer than five days) a potential high-risk item for Listeriosis. Prolonged storage in a refrigerator may allow the bacteria sufficient time to grow gradually and increase the consumers' risk of contracting listeriosis. Hence, the CFS conducted a targeted surveillance project to assess the situation," he said.

     Despite the fact that all the samples tested were satisfactory, the CFS will continue to enhance publicity and education towards high-risk groups, particularly pregnant women, for example, through development, production and dissemination of electronic publications such as "Food Safety Focus" and leaflets such as "Prevention of foodborne diseases in women planning to become pregnant, pregnant and lactating".

     "Moreover, in view of the potential risk of Listeria monocytogenes in food, the CFS is planning to carry out further study on food which is of higher Listeria monocytogenes risk. The CFS will also continue its collaboration with the CHP in investigation of listeriosis, and take samples of suspected affected food for analysis when necessary," he said.

     The spokesman appealed to the food trade to properly handle food through applying the five keys to food safety, for instance, they should keep perishable foods in a refrigerator at 4 degrees Celsius or below and avoid cross-contamination. In addition, they should estimate the demand for each food carefully to avoid over-production.

     He also advised members of the public to maintain food and personal hygiene. People belonging to the high-risk groups mentioned above should avoid high-risk foods, especially refrigerated ready-to-eat foods with a long shelf life.

Ends/Thursday, August 8, 2013
Issued at HKT 14:46


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