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Research article2016Peer reviewedOpen access

Foodborne Bacterial Pathogens in Retail Prepacked Ready-to-Eat Mixed Ingredient Salads

Söderqvist, Karin; Thisted Lambertz, Susanne; Vågsholm, Ivar; Boqvist, Sofia


Pre-packed ready-to-eat mixed ingredient salads (RTE salads) are readily available whole meals that include a variety of ingredients such as raw vegetables, cooked meat, and pasta. As part of a trend toward healthy convenience foods, RTE salads have become an increasingly popular product among consumers. However, data on the incidence of foodborne pathogens in RTE salads are scarce. In this study, the microbiological safety of 141 RTE salads containing chicken, ham, or smoked salmon was investigated. Salad samples were collected at retail and analyzed using standard methods for Listeria monocytogenes, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), pathogenic Yersinia enterocolitica, Salmonella, and Campylobacter spp. L. monocytogenes was isolated from two (1.4%) of the RTE salad samples. Seven (5.0%) of the samples were positive for the ail-gene (present in all human pathogenic Y. enterocolitica) and three (2.1%) of the samples were positive for the Shiga toxin-genes stx1 and/or stx2. However, no strains of pathogenic Y. enterocolitica or STEC were isolated. Thus, pathogens were found or suspected in almost 1 of 10 RTE salads investigated, and pathogenic bacteria probably are present in various RTE salads from retail premises in Sweden. Because RTE salads are intended to be consumed without heat treatment, control of the ingredients and production hygiene is essential to maintain consumer safety. The recommended maximum storage temperature for RTE salads varies among countries but can be up to 8 °C (e.g., in Sweden). Even during a short shelf life (3 to 5 days), storage at 8 °C can enable growth of psychrotrophs such as L. monocytogenes and Y. enterocolitica. The maximum storage temperature should therefore be reduced.


Foodborne pathogens; Food safety; Listeria monocytogenes; Microbial contamination; Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli; Yersinia enterocolitica

Published in

Journal of Food Protection
2016, Volume: 79, number: 6, pages: 978–985