Evaluating the cleaning procedures of meat slicers at retail delis in Metro Vancouver
Background: Ready-to-eat deli meats are widely consumed by the public; however they are also a high risk food for carrying Listeria monocytogenes. Listeriosis, an infection that can result from consumption of Listeria monocytogenes contaminated food, is the leading cause of deaths related to foodborne illness in Canada. Due to structural constraints and inadequate cleaning, mechanical slicers used to process deli meats have been implicated as a major source of Listeria monocytogenes contamination of deli meats. Several governing bodies, including local health authorities have published recommendations on the proper method of cleaning and sanitizing meat slicers to prevent the risk of contamination of deli meats. This study evaluated the compliancy of retail delis in Metro Vancouver to these recommendations and also assessed their knowledge of the risk associated with deli meats. Methods: An in-person, self-administered paper survey was conducted at several retail delis and supermarkets. The survey questions determined the cleaning and sanitation procedures of meat slicers at the establishments and also assed knowledge of the risk associated with deli meats. Both nominal and numerical data was collected and analyzed using a Chi-squre test and a t-test. Results: Based on the data collected, a statistically significant difference was identified between the cleaning procedures practiced by the establishments and those recommended to prevent pathogen transmission through meat slicers. The chi-square test revealed that there is a statistically significant association between the size of the establishment and the adequacy of cleaning procedures, with small-scale delis being less likely to comply with the cleaning practices that are recommended by governing bodies. Conclusion: Cleaning procedures practiced at retail delis and supermarkets are not consistent with those recommended by regulatory agencies to prevent the transmission of pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes from meat slicers to deli meats. Smaller retail delis are less likely to follow proper cleaning methods than larger supermarket delis. Educational intervention by health authorities may be needed to ensure that food establishments are informed of proper and timely cleaning procedures.