Officials in a region of Spain have provided an update on a Listeria control strategy following a large outbreak in 2019.

The three-year strategy is part of a series of steps taken by authorities, including funding a project and organizing an event, to prevent another outbreak.

Phases 1 and 2 of the control plan for Listeria Monocytogenes in Andalusia were developed by the Ministry of Health and Families.

The outbreak caused by La Mecha brand chilled roasted pork produced by Magrudis affected more than 200 people. During the alert between August and October 2019 three people died and there were five abortions.

A first phase covered the last quarter of 2019. In that period, almost 1,500 official controls were carried out with the number of food samples for Listeria doubling to more than 700 and surface samples almost tripled to nearly 400.

The aim was to raise awareness and improve the preparedness of meat companies against Listeria. Authorities said firms now have a more agile response in the event of an incident, through implementation of preventive measures and surveillance of production environments and surfaces.

Second phase
The Ministry of Health and Families developed guidelines for the control of Listeria in meat products for Andalusian companies in the sector and those involved in official controls.

The second phase, during 2020, involved characterizing all companies and their products with respect to the risk of Listeria and including this information in the official control database. Work included evaluating the effectiveness of controls adopted by the companies; verifying compliance with Listeria limits; and increasing effectiveness of official controls.

Phase 2 was extended to all those that put food at risk of Listeria contamination on the market, including the fish, dairy and vegetable sectors. The number of tests is above what was planned in 2019 with more than 1,100 Listeria samples in Andalusia for 2020. Analytical results showed 11 positives from 704 samples in 2019 and 15 positives out of 1,135 samples in 2020.

Tracking and monitoring systems have been modernized with whole genomic sequencing of Listeria strains, training and use of the FoodChain-Lab software. Work on a third phase, covering 2021 and onward, is ongoing.

Andalusian authorities previously set aside €100,000 (U.S. $113,000) for research to learn from the region’s outbreak. The project is looking at the epidemiological, microbiological and clinical aspects of the incident.

In early 2019, nearly 700 experts met in Seville to discuss Spain’s largest ever Listeria incident at the International Symposium on the Andalusian Listeriosis outbreak.

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