Advice around Listeria in sliced fermented sausages and vegetarian sandwich toppings for vulnerable people in Sweden has been changed.

The Swedish Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) has updated advice for individuals belonging to one of the risk groups for listeriosis. This includes pregnant women, elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems.

The new guidance is that people in at-risk groups may eat sliced fermented sausages, such as smoked midwest and salami, until their use-by date. This applies as long as products are stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Previously, it was advised that such individuals should only eat these products within a week of the packaging date.

A risk assessment found that Listeria multiplied slowly or not at all in fermented sausages at 4 degrees C (39.2 degrees F) and 8 degrees C (46.4 degrees F). This is because such products have a low pH and low water activity.

Revised advice also states that people in risk groups may consume vegetarian sandwich toppings intended to be eaten cold until the use-by date. The change is hoped to lead to less food waste and increase the options for vulnerable consumers.

A risk assessment showed that Listeria cannot multiply in most of these toppings at 4 or 8 degrees C. This is because they have a low pH and often contain preservatives, such as lactate, nitrite, or sorbate.

Changing consumer demand
The Swedish Food Agency said a review was done as pregnant women regularly asked it if it was safe to eat vegetarian sandwich toppings. Plus, interest in vegetarian and vegan food is growing.

In 2022, the Swedish Food Agency investigated the presence of Listeria in vegetable sandwich toppings. The study included 20 different products, and for each product, five samples from the same batch were analyzed, making a total of 100 samples, but Listeria was not detected.

The advice in Denmark, Norway, and Finland is for people in at-risk groups to eat sliced meats as soon as possible, well within the use-by date, and consume them quickly once the pack is opened.

While Listeria outbreaks and illnesses have been linked to vegetarian sandwich toppings in other countries, none have occurred in Sweden.

Advice on sliced cooked and smoked ham, sliced turkey, and sliced cooked sausage remains that these products should be eaten within one week of the packaging date. If it has been over a week, they can be eaten if sufficiently heated.

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