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The EU proposes a change to Listeria in the RTE food rules



The EU proposes a change to Listeria in the RTE food rules

The European Commission has published long-awaited plans to update the rules surrounding Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods.

The draft regulation deletes a paragraph on the absence of Listeria in 25 grams before food has left the direct control of the food business operator that produced it.

It is now stated that Listeria monocytogenes not detected in 25 grams should apply to all situations where foods are placed on the market during their shelf life and for which the producing food business has not been able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the relevant authority that it level of Listeria will not exceed the limit of 100 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) throughout the shelf life.

The new rules would apply to RTE foods, other than those intended for infants and for special medical purposes, that may support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes.

Infants and consumers with weakened immune systems are highly susceptible to Listeria monocytogenes and should not be exposed to foods containing the pathogen in any concentration.

Comment period
To give food businesses time to adapt their practices and procedures to the new requirement, the regulation will not apply until January 2026 at the earliest. Comments on the proposals are available. open until May 8, 2024.

At a meeting in February of the Biological Safety of the Food Chain Section of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, the European Commission presented the plan to amend Annex I to Regulation 2073/2005, regarding the stage of the food chain in which Article 1.2 applies. Despite some requests for clarification, all but one Member State that took the floor expressed support for the initiative.

The Chilled Food Association has been preparing for a review of the legislation for some time and was concerned that the upper limit of 100 cfu/g could be replaced by a zero tolerance or that it would not be detected in 25 grams or that there would be requirements would be required to set an expiration date. life through challenge tests.

The Chilled Food Association established the Industry Listeria Group in 2021. Members include the British Retail Consortium, British Meat Processors Association, Provision Trade Federation, Fresh Produce Consortium and European Smoked Salmon Association.

In Europe, the number of reports of listeriosis has increased in 2022. An explanation for the increasing trend is the increase in the number of elderly people, who are at a higher risk of serious illness.

Thirty countries reported 2,770 confirmed cases of listeriosis, the highest annual total since surveillance began at EU level. Germany, France and Spain had the most cases with 548, 451 and 437 respectively.

Listeria monocytogenes was identified as the causative agent of 35 foodborne outbreaks involving 296 people, with 242 hospitalized cases and 28 deaths. This was the highest since the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) started collecting data.

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