To investigate the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in poultry products, and to elucidate whether poultry products may be linked to listeriosis cases. A further goal was to identify contamination routes for L. monocytogenes to broiler carcasses.
Poultry products (385 samples) were screened for L. monocytogenes. The recovered isolates and 19 patient isolates were characterized by multilocus enzyme electrophoresis and restriction enzyme analysis. The poultry isolates showed great genetic diversity, but no identical subclones were identified from poultry sources and patients. One slaughterhouse was examined in detail during a 16-month period. The contamination rates increased along the processing line, and one subclone was found during the whole period. Only low prevalence of the bacteria was revealed from broiler faeces.
The prevalence of L. monocytogenes in poultry products was high, but no listeriosis cases was linked to poultry products. Broilers seem to be contaminated during the slaughter process, and specific strains may persist in the processing environment. Broiler faeces does not seem to be an important source of L. monocytogenes in poultry products.
Preventive measures to avoid contamination of poultry products by L. monocytogenes must be taken in the processing plants.