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Minimizing Risk of L. Monocytogenes Cross-Contamination of Deli RTE Foods by Developing New Sanitation Techniques and Evaluating Cost Effective Training Techniques

Marcy, John; Ricke, Steven; Crandall, Philip
University of Arkansas
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  1. Provide supervisors and food safety instructors an assessment of the current retail food safety training platforms for deli managers and hourly employees. We will produce critical comparative data that food safety instructors and deli managers can use to make informed choices in selecting training materials suitable for their particular needs.
  2. We will measure transfer coefficients of Listeria monocytogenes and effectiveness of new sanitization practices, summarize the findings by modeling supplemental risk assessment data adding worker effect to the variability of the transfer model. At the completion of this objective we will have additional data on transfer coefficients for most of the known LM niche harborages as cross-contamination points from food contact and environmental surfaces to RTE deli meat products.
  3. New online training modules will be developed on sanitation for deli employees applying the findings resulting from evaluations in Objective 1 and the current research results from Objective 2. This objective will result in the production of a new online training program targeted specifically at Hispanic speaking deli workers and incorporating the latest methods and knowledge concerning effective sanitation techniques for the reduction of LM harborages.
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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Most incidences of food poisoning result from food handler error which may be minimized with proper transfer of training. Cleaning a cutting board or sanitizing a floor drain may be a mundane task, but they are critically important.Proper motivation and training of employees and managers is vital to keep consumers safe. Every year foodborne illnesses devastate the lives of millions of Americans and take a significant economic toll, considering the costs of medical treatment and lost wages in addition to the costs of food recalls that are paid for by the retailer and manufacturer. A single pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, is responsible for almost 1/3 of these costs. Fatality rates of this pathogen approach 20%, and survivors often need prolonged care. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable, and if they become infected they may miscarry or deliver prematurely an infant that requires lifelong care.Listeria monocytogenes is known to be associated with consumption of ready-to-eat foods such as deli meats and cheeses. Manufacturers of ready-to-eat foods have made great improvements and lowered the levels of Listeria monocytogenes in their foods, yet the incidences of infection from this pathogen are not decreasing. It is known that retail stores and delicatessans may harbor Listeri monocytogenes on floors, equipment, or in drains. This research has as one of it's aims, the evaluation of transfer rates from equipment to food, as well as the role workers play in this transfer. We will also evaluate the current food safety training given to line workers as well as front line supervisors. We will develop and evaluate new training methods with the aims of reducing the spread of not only Listeria monocytogenes, but all foodborne pathogens that may be encountered in a retail setting.

APPROACH: The research team will evaluatethe four most commonly used computer-based food safety employee training programs. This evaluation will be accomplished in two stages 1) build an Evaluation Matrix that identifies the amount of knowledge including the elements of the FDA's Model Food Code plus details from the best from the training sites. Then 2) compare the commercial computer based training against this newly developed Evaluation Matrix. A modified Delphi technique will be utilized for this project. The Delphi panel will be composed of experts including corporate supermarket personnel, supermarket deli managers, hourly supermarket deli employees, independently owned deli managers, hourly deli employees, health department inspectors and food safety professionals. These experts will use the Evaluation Matrix to assess the online training programs against the integrated standard developed after being reviewed by deli managers and employees. Rating means will be determined for each training platform and results will be reported nationally in three forms: a peer reviewed article, a popular press article summarizing the finding, and national outreach on NIFA's Food Safety Information Center and Retail Food Service Food Safety Consortium. We will utilize students enrolled in a course at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston as the source of young adults working in management in the food industry. Prior to evaluating the knowledge content of the food safety training platforms, students will be given a pre-test to determine their current level of food safety knowledge. Short-term learning will be assessed by completing a post-test after these participants will the four platforms identified previously. To determine transfer coefficients LM isolates will be added to separate suspensions of four different fluorescent indicators. We will simultaneously assess the quantitative transfer of both LM and FI from deli meats (turkey, ham, salami) to and from a deli slicer.The same LM cocktail will be used together with the most reproducible FI to quantify transfer coefficients to or from shoe soles, gloves (latex and vinyl), cutting boards (plastic and wood) and representative environmental surfaces, including stainless steel, cement, ceramic tile, and deli flooring material. We will write appropriate course objectives to guide the organizing of our research findings and learning from our evaluation of the current training. Each participant will be given a written pretest knowledge survey covering basic knowledge of retail deli food safety, given brief instructions for launching the web-based learning and provided with a task list. Participants will be observed by a test monitor and/or videotaped during their entire session.After completion of the training modules, participants will be given a written post test knowledge survey and a profile questionnaire to obtain demographic information.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Bacterial Pathogens
Education and Training
Meat, Poultry, Game