Food makers are required to test each food batch where Listeria monocytogenes may be present, such as soft cheese and processed meat products, and in particular those kept refrigerated for a long time where the pathogen can grow at low temperatures.
Although infections caused by Listeria are not as common as for salmonella, they can cause anything from diarrhoea to blood poisoning or meningitis, just as the bacterium can lead to miscarriages or cause disease in foetuses and newborns.
Danish ingredients firm Chr Hansen, just taken over by private equity company PAI, claims the cost of its B-LC-20 product is far form prohibitive for the maker, amounting to less than half a per cent of the sausage sales price, and bringing savings in the long run.
"Peanuts compared to the cost producers will incur if forced to destroy a weeks production or even worse make a total recall from the market," says marketing manager Eva Stenby.
Although price will certainly play a role in decision to take the product on board, hence the firm's decision to target "high quality products with recognised brand names". A brand you have invested time, money and effort in, is a brand definitely worth protecting, adds Stenby.
She also claims their latest product does not change the taste or smell of the fermented sausages, "and the producer will usually not need to make any changes in his sausage recipe."
This makes B-LC-20 a very attractive alternative to the options currently available: heat treatment, additives likes potato starch, and increasing fat content or salt levels, adds the Danish firm.
Food safety experts estimate that 100 to 1,000 cells can cause the illness. Cooking kills most of the L. monocytogenes cells that can grow at refrigeration temperature, but ready-to-eat products, such as fermented sausages, and smoked fish, are not always cooked by consumers before consumption.
Food safety is a leading issue in society today, made ever more urgent by the growth of mass production. And the incidence of foodborne pathogens can bring heavy costs to industry, employer and government.
The UN-backed World Health Organisation estimates medical costs and the value of lives lost during just five foodborne outbreaks in England and Wales in 1996 were estimated at £300-700 million (€428-€999m); the cost of the estimated 11 500 daily cases of food poisoning in Australia has been calculated at AU$ 2.6 billion (€1.5bn) annually.