An assessment of Listeria controls at food companies in Switzerland has shown room for improvement, according to the Swiss Association of Cantonal Chemists (ACCS).

As part of a nationwide inspection, more than 100 food businesses were checked to see whether they were meeting their legal obligations. This led to three companies being reported to the authorities due to identified problems.

Raw and ready-to-eat (RTE) foods such as dairy products, cold meats, smoked fish or RTE salads are most frequently contaminated with Listeria.

Food companies must take steps to ensure that items sold are safe and do not pose a health risk. This can include laboratory testing of products and sampling of the production environment.

Main issues discovered
The cantonal chemists of Switzerland and Lichtenstein checked the implementation of such protective measures in 115 firms that manufacture products with an increased risk of Listeria.

Two thirds of companies did not meet the food law requirements and had deficiencies.

The most common issues were related to infrastructure, production hygiene, or control of the production environment. Action has been started to rectify the problems uncovered.

In Switzerland, several listeriosis outbreaks have occurred in recent years, leading to many cases of illness and some deaths.

One outbreak caused 34 illnesses and 10 deaths. In January 2020, an increase in listeriosis was reported and an investigation began to identify the source. In April, a cheesemaker reported the detection of Listeria in a sample of soft brie cheese made from pasteurized milk. Production was halted and there was a recall in May 2020.

Later analyses in Käserei Vogel’s plant showed persistent environmental contamination of the cheese factory with Listeria monocytogenes. The 22 infections in 2020 were also linked by lab work to 12 cases in 2018, for which a source had not been found at the time.

Overall, there were 58 confirmed listeriosis cases reported in 2020. This was within the usual annual variations, despite the above outbreak. As in previous years, the highest reporting rate was recorded in the over 65 age group. Men were slightly more affected than women.

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