Risk profiling Listeria in ready-to eat foods (RTE) and

Project Reference No.: 04-2014
Project Reference No.: 04-2014
Project Title: Risk profiling Listeria in ready-to eat foods (RTE) and determination of
control strategies and practical interventions
1. Objective/Knowledge Gap
This project is aimed at minimising the potential risk Listeria poses to the RTE food industry and
the Irish food supply chain, with the following key objectives:
to identify the sources of contamination and assess strain persistence in foods and food
processing plants
to develop protocols for establishing the risk of Listeria growth/survival within specific
food groups
to establish disease potential associated with strains
to develop innovative strategies for controlling the growth and survival of this pathogen
2. Background
Listeria monocytogenes is a particular risk for the ready-to-eat (RTE) food sector because it is
extraordinarily well adapted to the harsh conditions employed for food preservation, and can
persist in food processing environments for long periods.
In addition to the threat to public
health this pathogen poses, there are significant actual and potential economic consequences for
food businesses. From September 2010 to January 2012, there were 6 recalls of foods produced
in the Republic of Ireland due to Listeria monocytogenes, at considerable cost to the food
businesses concerned.
A Department of Agriculture FIRM-funded project aimed at harnessing existing research
capabilities to develop practical solutions to the problem of Listeria monocytogenes is currently
underway in the Republic of Ireland. It is safefood’s intention that a Northern Ireland partner
project should be established, in order to help producers in the RTE food sector across the island
of Ireland to minimise the risks associated with Listeria contamination. Practical academic
knowledge will be applied for the benefit of the RTE food industry and contribute to reduce the
public health risk from this pathogen. The project will benefit the food chain by identifying the
Project Reference No.: 04-2014
source(s) of contamination, developing strategies to control contamination and practical
interventions and by enabling knowledge transfer relating to L. monocytogenes.
3. Approach
The research will be focussed on four main themes, aligned with the objective outlined above:
Disease potential
Food and environmental samples will be taken from 30 selected food processing facilities across
Northern Ireland and sent to the participating laboratory for analysis.
The sampling will be
carried out by the food business operators themselves, under guidance from the laboratory. This
element of the study will help to identify the source/persistence of L. monocytogenes within the
food businesses and provide isolates for physiological and molecular studies.
These studies (including genome sequencing) will give insights into the causes of persistence in
the processing environment, growth in foods and the disease potential of the isolates.
Additionally, these isolates will be used in studies to develop control strategies, thus helping to
alleviate the burden that L. monocytogenes places on the food industry on the island of Ireland,
and protecting public health.
The results will be disseminated through the already established safefood Listeria Network,
targeted workshops aimed at up skilling (Food Business Operators, regulators, vets, etc.), as
well as reports and publications.
4. Technical Specification
(a) Literature review
(b) Data collection
(c) Sample analysis and laboratory studies
(d) Data analysis
(e) Data handling & reporting
(f) Quality assurance
(a) Literature review: A full and thorough review of the literature around Listeria
monocytogenes in the food processing environment, and existing control strategies. It
should include peer-reviewed publications and also a full search of the grey literature
including government and other organisation reports, and conference proceedings etc.
Project Reference No.: 04-2014
(b) Data collection
The contractor will recruit 30 food processors in Northern Ireland, from a range of sectors,
including the dairy, meat, fisheries and fruit & vegetable sector.
The contractor will be responsible for training the food business operators in the correct
methodology for sampling for Listeria monocytogenes.
The contractor will ensure that 6 environmental samples are taken from each premises on
a bi-monthly basis for the duration of the project. These samples must be transported to
an accredited laboratory under controlled conditions, where analysis should begin within
The sampling methodology and sampling plan must be approved by safefood in advance
of the survey
(c) Sample analysis & Laboratory Studies
The samples will be analysed for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, using appropriate
The resulting isolates will be used in physiological and molecular studies, designed to
ascertain the causes of persistence in the processing environment, growth in the foods
produced at the facilities and the disease potential of the isolates. Additionally, contractor
will use the isolates in studies designed to develop control strategies for Listeria
A detailed experimental plan detailing the study design and methodologies to be employed
must be approved by safefood in advance of the study.
(d) Data analysis
All data gathered must be analysed using appropriate statistical methods to give an
understanding of the causes of persistence in the processing environment, growth in foods
and the disease potential of the isolates.
The contractor must provide the participating food business operators with a bi-monthly
report on any sources of contamination and persistence problems, and give advice on
measures that can be taken to control Listeria monocytogenes in the facilities.
(e) Data handling and reporting
Project Reference No.: 04-2014
The contractor will submit to safefood, on a six monthly basis, a summary report
containing details of the progress for each deliverable of the project.
Interim reports (electronic and hardcopy) containing a summary of the findings to date
will be submitted to safefood at six monthly intervals of the research.
The contractor is responsible for collating all results and a final report will be submitted
to safefood on completion of the study.
All forms, documentation and electronic files must be retained by the contractor until
further notice from safefood in case of issues arising after the completion of the
(f) Quality assurance
The contractor must ensure a high level of accuracy in data entry, checking and
backup and analytical competence and should provide an outline of how data
produced will be validated, analysed and interpreted.
safefood may visit the contractors during the course of the research to assess how
the work is being carried out.
Applicants should provide details of participation in proficiency tests and interlaboratory comparison schemes for analyses relevant to this work.
Applicants should provide documentary evidence that laboratory quality assurance and
quality control measures are in place.
5. Proposed Activities/Deliverables
Literature review
Sampling methodology and plan
Detailed experimental plan for laboratory studies, including phenotypic and genotypic
analysis of isolates, growth studies and development of control strategies
Submission of 6 monthly summary reports.
Analysis of the final dataset, collation of the results and drafting of a final report to be
submitted to safefood within the 2 year study period.
Project Reference No.: 04-2014
6. Evaluation of Tenders
Tender bids will be evaluated according to the quality of proposals and applicants using
the following criteria:
Quality of the proposal:
Anticipated deliverables;
Research method;
Value for money;
Potential for application;
Work plan, including the overall timeframe.
Quality of Applicants:
Experience in subject area;
Existing facilities;
Quality Assurance and Quality Control measures in place.
7. Duration of Project: Estimated duration of the project: Total of 2 years. A detailed
timescale of research should be submitted by each applicant.
8. Scientific Aspects: Potential applicants are encouraged to contact the Research
Administration Office at safefood for further information about this research project.
Tender Application Forms and Guidelines
The Tender Application Form and associated Guidelines can be downloaded from
www.safefood.eu. They can also be obtained by emailing research@safefood.eu,
quoting the project reference number 04-2014. Alternatively please contact safefood
as per the details below.
Ms Gillian Fox/Ms. Veronica Sheehan
Research Coordinator
Research Office
7 Eastgate Avenue
Little Island
Co. Cork
Tel: +353 21-2304100
Fax: +353 21-2304111