The USDA has approved LISTEX as an antimicrobial processing aid to combat Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is considered one of the most important food safety threats, due to its high mortality rate of over 20 percent and its risk to pregnant women.
Today's USDA's decision will enable food processing companies to deliver safer clean label products to the marketplace without the need for reformulation or compromise on quality. The approval is in line with Health Canada's decision last September to approve LISTEX as a processing aid.
LISTEX eliminates Listeria, rather than merely inhibiting its outgrowth. As such it can be used as an Alternative-2 or as part of an Alternative-1 compliance under the USDA 2003 final rule for post-lethality exposed RTE meat products. It is certified USDA organic and does not affect the taste, texture or other organoleptic properties of treated food products. It can therefore be used for natural as well as organic foods. LISTEX is highly consistent in eliminating Listeria and easy to apply by topical spraying.
Micreos' CEO Mark Offerhaus notes, "Consumers and food processors alike will benefit from the USDA's decision. Phages are abundant in our environment and foods, but thanks to today's technology we can harness their power and help prevent unnecessary suffering, economic losses and environmental strain".
The threat from Listeria is real and not to be ignored, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA emphasize. "About one of five patients with listeriosis dies," says Benjamin Silk, with the CDC's Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch. Listeriosis and cold cuts were ranked as the third worst combination of a food and a pathogen in terms of the burden they place on public health, costing $1.1 billion a year in medical costs and lost work days, according to a study published last April by the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogen Institute.
Despite the increased legal and sanitary measures, the trend in Listeriosis cases has not seen a downturn. In the United States, the CDC estimates that 2,500 people become seriously ill with Listeriosis each year, with several hundred deaths each year. Latest information by the CDC reports an increase of 19 percent. This is consistent with the trend in the EU as reported by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), confirming Listeria as a major public health threat.