Laboratory for Food Safety
Fougères Laboratory

A partnership to better control bacteria in food processing facilities

The presence of Listeria and Salmonella bacteria in food processing facilities poses several problems: pathogenic for humans, these bacteria are capable of persisting for a long time in the environment and resisting treatment with biocidal products. The Actia Fastypers Joint Technology Unit (UMT) was recently created by the French Ministry of Agriculture for a five-year period, in order to work on these issues. It brings together research teams (ANSES, INRAE) and agro-industrial technical institutes (Actalia, for the dairy sector, and the French Pork and Pig Institute (IFIP)).

Salmonella and Listeria are two bacteria of animal origin that cause foodborne illnesses in humans. They can persist for several months in natural and agricultural environments, as well as in food processing facilities. In addition, certain strains can resist treatment with disinfection products. The work of the Actia Fastypers UMT aims to understand via what mechanisms Salmonella and Listeria are able to adapt and persist in the external environment, including in food processing facilities, and also develop tools to characterise and detect these persistent bacterial strains. This work will be conducted jointly in the pig and dairy sectors.

Involvement of two of ANSES's teams

Two of ANSES's units will be involved in the UMT: the Salmonella and Listeria Unit of the Laboratory for Food Safety and the Antibiotics, Biocides, Residues and Resistance Unit of the Fougères Laboratory. The former will provide its expertise relating to the genomic characterisation of strains, in order to identify which genotypes are associated with the characteristics studied (resistance to heavy metals, persistence in the environment, virulence, etc.). The latter will study bacterial adaptation and resistance to the biocidal cleaning products used. This work will be undertaken in conjunction with the Chlean Joint Technology Network, dedicated to the hygiene of equipment in the food processing industry, in which the two laboratories are already involved.

Development of detection tools

The purpose of the UMT is to develop tools that can be routinely used by producers and food processing companies to identify bacterial strains present in the various stages of food production, from farms to finished products. “The aims are to optimise and simplify the tools we have at our disposal for research, in order to enable technical institutes to determine both the virulence and the potential persistence of strains simply by collecting bacteria from surfaces using sampling cloths” explains Sophie Roussel, co-coordinator of the UMT and scientist at the Laboratory for Food Safety. These analyses are intended to adapt cleaning and disinfection processes based on the characteristics of the bacterial strains likely to be found in agro-industrial environments, for example by using those disinfectant products that are the most effective against the bacteria found in these facilities.