CANADA – Health Canada has updated its Canadian Policy on Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods which replaces the 2011 version.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada contributed to the development of Health Canada’s 2023 Listeria policy, which takes into account the roles and responsibilities of businesses, the government, and consumers.
The Listeria policy aims to make it easier to apply and verify L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.
Its application should make it possible to detect Listeria species early in the food processing environment and evaluate the success of the controls put in place to deal with L. monocytogenes in RTE meals.
In the updated policy, concepts, including the legislative context of the Listeria policy, have been presented in a new order for better readability and refinement for improved clarity.
It focuses on the current outcome-based regulatory landscape for domestic manufacturers, importers, and exporters of RTE foods, specific food businesses, activities, and foods for which the Listeria policy does not apply, the definition of RTE foods, a decision tree to facilitate the categorization of RTE foods and more detail on foods specifically produced for consumption by vulnerable populations.
According to the policy, RTE foods are any foods that are normally eaten in the same condition as that in which they are purchased. They are not normally further prepared before consumption, except perhaps being washed/rinsed, thawed, or warmed (that is, a heat treatment achieving less than a 5-log reduction in numbers of L. monocytogenes).
RTE foods subject to the Listeria policy often require refrigeration (that is, labelled ‘Keep Refrigerated’ on the package) or freezing (that is, labelled ‘Keep Frozen’ on the package) for their preservation until the time of consumption.
The policy uses a risk-based approach and is based on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and the principles of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).
The implementation of the Listeria policy relies on process review, environmental sampling (includes food contact and non-food contact surfaces), and end-product testing.
In an effort to manufacture RTE foods that are safe for consumption, the Listeria policy places an emphasis on environmental sampling in post-process areas where foods are exposed to the environment prior to packaging.
The Listeria policy (2023) will come into effect on October 1, 2023. Until then, the Listeria policy (2011) will remain in effect.
Listeria monocytogenes is unique among foodborne pathogens. It is widespread in nature and can be found in dust, soil, animal feces, and other substances.
Consumption of contaminated food could lead to listeria infection, one of the main causes of food poisoning.
It can grow at refrigeration temperatures and can survive in the environment of food processing plants for months to years.
Although rare, L. monocytogenes infections can result in serious and severe diseases, especially in vulnerable individuals.
Foodborne outbreaks of listeriosis have mostly been linked to ready-to-eat (RTE) foods that are not normally further prepared before consumption.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die.
Symptoms of Listeria infection can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. The infection usually doesn’t lead to serious illness if you’re healthy, though you may feel sick for a day or two.