Evaluation of listeriosis risk related with the consumption of non‐prepackaged ready‐to‐eat (RTE) cooked meat products handled at retail stores in Greece
Data were collected for (i) consumption of non‐prepackaged ready‐to‐eat (RTE) cooked meat products, (ii) types of RTE cooked meat products available on the Greek market including analyses of water activity, pH, concentration of nitrite (NaNO2) and lactic acid bacteria, (iii) consumer practices after purchase of the meat products (e.g., transport time, handling, storage), (iv) temperature profiles in household refrigerators and (v) L. monocytogenes prevalence of the slicing machine and sliced RTE product. The Food Safety and Spoilage Predictor model was validated against observed L. monocytogenesgrowth in non‐prepackaged RTE cooked meat products at different static and dynamic temperature conditions simulating domestic stage. The data and validated model were used to develop a quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) model predicting the listeriosis risk related to the consumption of these meat products handled at retail stores in Greece. The probability of illness per serving was found highly related to the NaNO2concentration; products having a lower concentration showed a higher risk per serving. A sensitivity analysis showed that the prevalence and initial concentration of L. monocytogenes immediately after slicing as well as the temperature and duration of storage in the domestic refrigerator had the highest impact on the probability of illness per serving. A median number of seven listeriosis cases per year was predicted for the total population upon consumption of these products handled at retail food service environments in Greece. The predicted 95th percentiles of the listeriosis cases totaled 33 of which 13 cases were <65 years old and 20 cases ≥65 years old. The higher number of cases was predicted for mortadella, smoked turkey, boiled turkey and parizer, which were the most frequently consumed categories. Two scenarios for assessing potential interventions to reduce the risk were tested: setting a use‐by date of 14 days in these products and improving the temperature of domestic storage. Both scenarios resulted in the elimination of the median number of annual cases and decreased significantly the 95th and 99th percentiles.