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The ability of Listeria monocytogenes to survive in different environments and establish persistent contaminations is an important issue for food producers. This study aimed to assess the environmental contamination level in an Italian salami producing plant and to identify possible sources of contamination using pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) on L. monocytogenes isolates obtained from environmental (n=54) and meat samples (n=9) collected over 9 months. Detection of L. monocytogenes was performed using the UNI EN ISO 11290-1 procedure and every isolate was characterised with PFGE, using AscI and ApaI restriction enzymes. The environmental detection frequencies were constant both in the first (22%) and the second (27%) visit, thus suggesting the presence of strains adapted to the processing plant. Equipments can represent a reservoir of L. monocytogenes from which it can spread into the whole producing plant. The reservoir was documented by PFGE results which showed several persistent strains. Moreover, PFGE proved the cross-contamination between surfaces and semiprocessed products like pastes, which furthermore have been contaminated by L. monocytogenes in 100% of samples in the first two visits and in 33% in the last visit. This study gave evidence that detection methods and PFGE characterisation can be effective tools to detect possible sources and routes of contamination.
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