EUROPE – The European Commission (EC) is taking decisive steps to enhance food safety standards by proposing amendments to regulations governing Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.

These proposed changes, aligned with Codex Alimentarius standards, aim to address the rising incidence of listeriosis and bolster public health protection across the European Union (EU).

In response to a concerning 15.9 percent increase in human listeriosis cases from 2021 to 2022, the EC has proposed amendments to Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005. The draft regulations aim to ensure consistent monitoring of L. monocytogenes levels in RTE foods, particularly those capable of supporting pathogen growth throughout their shelf-life.

The proposed amendments would require that L. monocytogenes not be detected in 25 grams of RTE foods throughout their shelf-life, unless food businesses can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of relevant authorities, that levels will not exceed 100 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g). This stringent criterion applies to all RTE foods, except those intended for infants and special medical purposes.

To accommodate the transition to these new regulations, food businesses will have until January 2026 to adapt their practices and procedures. The extended timeline allows for a smooth implementation process while ensuring that RTE foods meet the highest standards of safety and quality.

Industry response and collaboration

The proposed changes have been met with anticipation and preparation from industry stakeholders. The Chilled Food Association, alongside key partners in the food sector, has been actively engaged in discussions and preparations for the revised legislation.

Against the backdrop of a rising elderly population, Europe witnessed a surge in listeriosis cases in 2022, with notable increases reported in countries like Germany, France, and Spain. Listeria monocytogenes emerged as the causative agent in several foodborne outbreaks, underscoring the urgency of implementing stricter regulations.

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