Tackling the Listeria Epidemic in the Food Industry

Listeria once again hit British headlines recently as a sixth death was revealed to be linked to an outbreak in NHS hospitals. Public Health England confirmed it was one of nine cases of listeriosis, caused by pre-packaged sandwiches in hospitals across the UK. While investigations continue, the epidemic has proven how important hygiene standards are on food production lines. Here, Cutting Edge breaks down listeriosis and the risks it poses along with our guidelines on how to prevent it from infecting your production line.

What is listeriosis?

According to NHS England guidelines, listeriosis is a rare infection caused by listeria - a bacteria. Though it is normally not too serious, it can in some cases be fatal especially to those with weakened immune systems, such as hospital patients. It is caught through food and grows at cold temperatures, most commonly unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses and chilled ready-to-eat foods such as pre-packaged sandwiches (as evidenced in the latest outbreak). Food contaminated with listeria often presents a strong odour that can be seen and tasted.

What caused the recent outbreak?

Contaminated food, thought to be chicken sandwiches, were provided to NHS hospitals by the Good Food Chain. The six deaths were recorded at five different hospital trusts across the country, including Manchester, Liverpool, Derby, Leicester and Western Sussex. The three other non-fatal cases occurred at Frimley Heath Trust and East Kent Hospitals University. The Good Food Chain, a Staffordshire-based food supplier has since gone into liquidation, causing 125 job losses. The firm voluntarily ceased production as PHE investigated which specific strain of listeria was responsible for the death. So far, of the 34 bacteria samples tested, none have been linked to the outbreak. The investigation has now turned to the supply chain to identify the root cause of the contamination.


How can Cutting Edge help?

At Cutting Edge we have made it our mission to support our customers with delivering the best possible food hygiene standards. We are passionate about preventing outbreaks from occurring and we have invested heavily in developing the best possible solutions to help food businesses.

The latest listeria crisis has proven that effective hygiene tools are invaluable in this high-risk industry. That’s why last year we partnered with sterilAir, a Swiss-based company that utilises sophisticated UV-C technology to virtually eradicate hygiene risks on production lines. The HAACP and FDA compliant tools leave no residue as they neutralise almost every food pathogen and microorganism produced by food spoilage, deactivating them and preventing further infection. Not only can they safely eliminate listeria but the sterilAir UV sanitisation units can also effectively kill salmonella, E.coli and various other harmful pathogens.

The innovative sterilAir range includes:

  • ET Evaporator Disinfection System designed to targets a surface directly and sterilise it, whether it be a conveyor belt, a fermentation cloth or a cooling coil.
  • UVR-4K Industrial UV Air Recirculation Unit, a ceiling mounted industrial recirculating air disinfection unit to improve air hygiene, destroy microorganisms and deactivate mould spores.
  • T2018 Surface Disinfection System, a revolutionary new flexible belt sterilization system for use on conveyor belts and wet areas which are particlarly vulnerable to contamination.
  • AQT Immersion Emitter for Humidifiers for cooling towers, humidifiers, air cleaners and water tanks, prevents the build-up of biofilms inside the tank and on exposed surfaces.


These devices offer flexibility, water resistance and remarkable cost efficiency. Furthermore, unlike alternative sanitisation methods, UV-C technology does not use any toxins or aggressive chemical additives, meaning food products are protected from hazardous degradation. sterilAir also take great strides to remain as eco-friendly as possible; their systems are optimised to reduce energy consumption and remain inoffensive to the environment. Combined with our nationwide service and support from our hygiene specialists, sterilAir’s UV sterilisation products offer the ideal solution for improving hygiene and food safety in any food production environment.

To find out more about sterilAir and how it can help your business, please visit: https://www.cuttingedgeservices.co.uk/sterilair