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Ready-to-eat (RTE) food is characterised by a long shelf-life at refrigerated temperature and can be consumed as such, without any treatment. The aim of the work was to evaluate the presence of Listeria spp. and Listeria monocytogenes in RTEs collected from refrigerated vending machines placed in hospital environment and accessible to the hospitalised patients. In 4 different sampling, 55 RTEs were collected from vending machines of six hospitals located in different areas of Sardinia region. All the samples were characterised by similar manufacturing process, such as the use of modified atmosphere packaging and belonged to 5 different producers. Listeria spp. was not countable using the enumeration method in all of the analysed samples. Using the detection method, Listeria spp. was recovered from 9 sandwich samples. Interestingly, 3 of these samples (5.5%) made by the manufacturer, were positive for L. monocytogenes contamination. The risk related to the L. monocytogenes presence in RTEs proportionally increases when food is introduced in susceptible environments, such as hospitals and consumed by susceptible people. Although the RTEs analysed showed values that complied with the European microbiological criteria for foodstuffs, the availability of these products in a susceptible environment should be carefully checked. Therefore, in order to limit the possible exposition to L. monocytogenes, more information on the risk related to RTE consumption should be provided to the hospitalised patients.
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