BSE case confirmed on a Ayrshire farm

A case of classical Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) has been confirmed on a farm in Ayrshire.

Precautionary movement restrictions have been put in place at impacted premises and cover animals which have been in contact with the case.

The Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) is investigating the source of the outbreak and further investigations to identify the origin of the disease are ongoing. This is standard procedure for a confirmed case of classical BSE.

The case was identified as a result of routine surveillance and stringent control measures, where All animals over four years of age that die on farm are routinely tested for BSE. The animal did not enter the human food chain. Food Standards Scotland have confirmed there is no risk to human health as a result of this isolated case. 

The owners of the affected animals are working with authorities on next steps.

Whilst the disease is not directly transmitted from animal to animal, its cohorts, including offspring, have been traced and isolated, and will be destroyed in line with legal requirements. Movement restrictions have also been put in place at three further farms – the farm of the animal’s origin and two more holdings where animals that have had access to the same feed are.

In addition to the measures in place for fallen stock and animal feed, there is a strict control regime to protect consumers. This includes the removal of specified risk material such as the spinal column, brain and skull from carcasses destined for human consumption.

Agriculture Minister Jim Fairlie said:

“Following confirmation of a case of classical BSE in Ayrshire, the Scottish Government and other agencies took swift and robust action to protect the agriculture sector. This included establishing a precautionary movement ban on the farm.

“The fact we identified this isolated case so quickly is proof that our surveillance system for detecting this type of disease is working effectively.

“I want to thank the animal’s owner for their diligence. Their decisive action has allowed us to identify and isolate the case at speed which has minimised its impact on the wider industry.”

Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said:

“The fast detection of this case is proof that our surveillance system is doing its job.

“We are working closely with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, and other partners to identify where the disease came from.

“I want to reassure both farmers and the public that the risk associated with this isolated case is minimal. But, if any farmers are concerned, I would urge them to seek veterinary advice.”

Ian McWatt, Deputy Chief Executive of Food Standards Scotland said:

“There are strict controls in place to protect consumers from the risk of BSE, including controls on animal feed, and removal of the parts of cattle most likely to carry BSE infectivity.

“Consumers can be reassured that these important protection measures remain in place and that Food Standards Scotland Official Veterinarians and Meat Hygiene Inspectors working in all abattoirs in Scotland will continue to ensure that in respect of BSE controls, the safety of consumers remains a priority.

“We will continue to work closely with Scottish Government, other agencies and industry at this time.”

FSS publish analysis of the Calorie Content of ‘Food on the Go’ Products in the Out of Home Sector

Food Standards Scotland have published a new report “An Analysis of the Calorie Content of ‘Food on the Go’ Products in the Out of Home Sector in Scotland 2023”.

Working with the Rowett Institute (University of Aberdeen), research was conducted to explore the calorie content of food on the go products available out of home in Scotland, between January and March 2023. Data was collected from 17 branded out of home businesses which commonly sell food on the go products.

Food on the go can be defined as food purchased for immediate consumption, with the expectation that it will not to be consumed within an establishment, for example, eaten outside, at work, or when travelling. Food on the go makes up the highest proportion of out of home eating occasions in Scotland (62%).

Key findings:

  • Burgers had the highest median calories (556 kcals) and maximum calories (1,155 kcals) per portion, and almost half (43%) were higher than 600 calories.
  • Sandwiches were the main meal food on the go category with the most products (59%), followed by pasta and pasta salads (9%) and other salads (8%).
  • When compared to the UK Government calorie reduction guidelines, the majority of the products were within the maximum calorie recommendations per portion.
  • There was little variation in the median calorie content per portion of food on the go offerings between business types.

This research only explored individual products, not those purchased in combination, such as part of a meal deal. However, almost half (46%) of the main meal products recorded could be purchased as part of a meal deal, including nearly half of sandwiches and almost all burgers. 

This research addressed an evidence gap by reporting on the calorie content of a wide range of main meal food on the go products available out of home in Scotland. For a more realistic representation of the calorie content of food on the go, future research exploring the calorie content and wider nutrition of meal deals could be beneficial.

Clean Air Day 2024

Clean Air Day is happening on Thursday 20th June and this year the focus of the Scottish campaign is on learning about impacts of air pollution and encouraging and sharing knowledge on active travel behaviours to support improving local air quality.

Clean Air Day is a UK wide air pollution campaign, which has been running since 2017. Clean Air Day aims to raise awareness of air pollution, the biggest environmental health risk in the UK, through engagement with individuals and households, schools, community groups and business. 

The Scottish Government are working with Global Action Plan again this year to support Clean Air Day, and are asking you to get involved.  We’d love to hear what you are planning for the day and have a few suggestions to help get you started:

  • tweeting on the day and/or reposting Scottish Government social media posts;
  • using the Clean Air Day materials, created by Global Action Plan, to create your own media content to show support for Clean Air Day and how your organisation’s work support this, or a range of resources for all Clean Air Day supporters; 
  • by setting up an event or seminar, for example; or
  • presenting case studies of how you / your organisation is taking action on air quality. 

Alongside the range of resources being prepared for all Clean Air Day supporters from local authorities, schools, community groups and individuals there is also lots of useful information that you can direct the public to on our Let’s Do Net Zero website for reducing car use – Travel Less by Car | Net Zero Nation – and on active travel on Transport Scotland’s website – Active travel | Transport Scotland.  Transport Scotland also have lot of information on the Low Emission Zones which are being introduced in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh at the end of May/beginning June.

You can find out about Scotland’s plans to improve air quality by reading the Scottish Government’s Cleaner Air For Scotland 2 (CAFS 2) – ‘Towards a Better Place for Everyone’ and learn more about air pollution on Scottish’s Air Quality site Latest pollution map ( where you can check air quality readings and other information in your postcode area.  

Please get in touch with the Scottish Government ( if you are planning activities for Clean Air Day, would like some more information about the day, or help in planning social media activity to support the day.

FSA publish guidance on risks associated with raw flour 

Food Standards Agency have published guidance on risks associated with raw flour and controls to reduce risk.

Flour doesn’t look like a raw food, but all flour is raw. That means it hasn’t been treated to kill germs that cause food poisoning, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli). These bacteria are widespread in the environment and can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or flour while it’s being processed. Steps like grinding grain and bleaching flour don’t kill harmful bacteria and these germs can end up in flour products or baking mixes you buy in shops.  

It is particularly important for vulnerable people, such as children under 5, those with compromised immune systems and older people, to not taste or eat raw dough or batter. This is because their immune system may not be able to fight off infections as easily.  

Foods to be careful with include dough or batter for foods like cookies, cakes, pie crusts, pizza, biscuits and pancakes. Also, crafts made with raw flour, such as homemade play dough can be risky. Ensure you clean hands, surfaces and utensils after use to avoid cross-contamination. 

Using raw flour safely

Here are some helpful tips to follow when using flour: 

  • Ensure that children don’t play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts, unless it has been heat-treated beforehand
  • Bake raw dough, such as cookie dough, and batter, such as cake mix, before eating
  • Make sure to not use raw homemade cookie dough in ice cream unless it has been made with heat-treated flour (cookie dough ice cream sold in shops contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful germs) 
  • Keep raw foods, such as flour, separate from ready-to-eat foods – because flour is a powder, it can spread easily
  • Follow storage instructions carefully for food containing raw dough until they are baked or cooked (for example, ready to eat cookie dough or ready rolled pastry) 

Always clean up  thoroughly after handling flour, eggs, or raw dough:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water after handling flour or any surfaces they have touched 
  • Wash bowls, utensils, and other surfaces with warm, soapy water or a suitable cleaning agent
  • Make sure countertops are cleaned thoroughly

Heat treating flour

You can treat flour by heating it to make it safe. You can then use it to make foods like raw cookie dough or in dough for crafts.  

We don’t recommend using a microwave to sterilise flour, as there can be a risk of uneven heating. We also don’t recommend using an air fryer, as the air circulation makes it unsuitable.  

Ideally, use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the flour when cooking. The flour should be heated to 70°C for a minimum of 2 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, make sure to stick to the following timings and temperatures.  

Using an oven: 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 4 
  • Spread the flour out evenly on a lined baking tray and bake for 5 minutes, stirring half-way through. 
  • Ideally, use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the flour in a few different spots when stirring and after 5 minutes
  • The flour should be heated to 70°C for a minimum of 2 minutes 
  • Make sure to cool the flour before using

Using a frying pan: 

  • Tip the flour into a heavy-based frying pan and place over a medium heat 
  • Stir constantly for about 4 minutes until all the flour is hot
  • Ideally, use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the flour in a few different spots
  • The flour should be heated to 70°C for a minimum of 2 minutes 
  • Make sure to cool the flour before using

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REHIS – April News

Annual Environmental Health Forum

On behalf of our President, Lynn Crothers, we would like to thank all our speakers, delegates, invited guests, Institute staff and the staff of Queen Margaret University for this year’s Annual Environmental Health Forum, which was held on 24 April 2024 at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

Through the varied and informative presentations there were great discussions on ‘how does the profession remain resilient with global, international and local pressures?’. We would also like to congratulate all the award recipients.  A full report will be in the next Journal edition.   It was a great day with interesting speakers, excellent networking opportunities and to cap it all – the sun shone brilliantly! 

Top Photo – REHIS President – Lynn Crothers

Bottom Photo – REHIS Directors and Chief Executive

Pollution Update Course, 22 May 2024

The Pollution Update Course is taking place on Wednesday 22 May 2024 via MS Teams and is packed with a variety of interesting and topical subjects.

The event will open with an introduction from Scottish Government in what they are currently involved with, regarding noise, air quality and contaminated land. We will then take a closer look at noise and renewables with respect to air sourced heat pumps. The event will continue with an update on LEZs from Glasgow City Council, problems associated with lithium leakage from batteries and a further insight into developments into fly tipping initiatives.

There will be opportunity for questions and further discussion. For information and booking arrangements see Pollution Update – REHIS

Community Training

This Institute recently hosted a two-day NHS/PHS Scottish Mental Health First Aid course in the REHIS Office. Some of our approved training centres presenters and staff were trained up by Gwen Robertson, Scottish Mental Health Training, in preparation for the soon to be launched REHIS Mental Health First Aid course.

Person catches bird flu from dairy cattle

The Texas Department of State Health Services has reported a human case of avian influenza A(H5N1) virus in Texas. The case was identified in a person who had direct exposure to dairy cattle presumed to be infected with avian influenza.

In a health alert on 1 April, Texan health officials said a dairy worker had developed mild conjunctivitis, or ‘pink eye’, after close contact with a dairy herd. Testing later confirmed that they had caught H5N1.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, this is the second human case of H5N1 flu in the United States and the first linked to an exposure to cattle. In March, the Texas Animal Health Commission announced the first cases of avian influenza A(H5N1) in dairy cattle in the Texas Panhandle.

The Texas Department of State Health Services are now working CDC and other state and federal health agencies to investigate the human and animal cases and understand how the virus is spreading in order to protect livestock and people who work with it.

In recent years, H5N1 has killed millions of wild birds and poultry across the globe. However, in unexpected developments, it has also jumped to animals including cats, bears, foxes, mink and sea lions. This has raised concerns that the virus could have space to evolve to better infect and spread between mammals – and potentially also humans. 

Cows were added to that ever-growing list just last week, when the United States reported H5N1 infections in dairy herds. Since then, cases have been confirmed or are under investigation in five states – Texas, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico and Idaho. 

Although cows can contract other forms of influenza and a study in 2008 found cattle could contract H5N1, this is the first time the virus has actually been found in herds.

While the cows do not become seriously ill, a race is now underway to determine whether they were infected via wild birds – which have been found dead on some farms – or whether the virus has started to spread between herds, which has not yet been proven nor ruled out. It would be a concern if the virus has mutated to spread more easily between cows. 

Hundreds of tonnes of fly-tipped waste removed from Perth site

Over 230 tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish and waste has been removed from a fly-tipping black-spot at Friarton, Perth.

The site on the banks of the River Tay has been cleared thanks to a joint effort by Perth and Kinross Council, Scottish Water, SEPA and Tay Salmon Fisheries.

Heavy machinery took three days to clear the fly-tipped waste from the land at Lower Friarton. The rubbish was taken to local waste sites for metal and plastic to be recycled.

The land is privately owned and has attracted illegal fly-tippers for many years. Although it is not the Council’s responsibility to clear fly-tipped waste from private land, the problem was getting out-of-control so a decision was taken to act for the good of the local environment.

The cleared area will now be further tidied up by the Council’s Unpaid Work Team, before fences and walls are erected either side of the road to discourage future fly-tipping. Mobile cameras have also been installed to catch any perpetrators in the act.

Council Leader, Councillor Grant Laing, said: “This area has been an eyesore for some time, and so I am very glad that this partnership effort has got the site cleared. Rubbish and waste was being dumped right at the edge of the river and so it was posing an environmental risk.

“We estimate that some of the illegally dumped waste had been there for around 15 years, and the fact we took away over 200 tonnes showed the scale of the problem.

“We hope the additional work we will carry out down at the site will prevent the problem reoccurring. Mobile cameras have been installed that will catch anyone who dumps illegally, so anyone planning to fly-tip at the site should think again.

“People who illegally dump rubbish in Perth and Kinross should know that we will investigate them, gather evidence and prosecute them whenever possible. Fly-tippers can end up with a £500 fine and in serious cases they will end up in court with a criminal record.

“There is absolutely no excuse for fly-tipping. Perth & Kinross provides several ways to get rid of bulky waste, including at our recycling centres and through special waste uplifts.”

Alex Macaskill, SEPA Unit Manager Falkirk, Alloa, Stirling and Perth, said: “Illegal operators often hide what they plan to do with waste they collect, which can lead to fly-tipping like we’ve seen at Friarton. This partnership approach helped tackle the issue here, but the first line of defence is stopping criminals getting their hands on waste in the first place.

“Services that sound too good to be true often are – and could lead to your waste being illegally fly-tipped. If you’re planning a clear-out, you can help tackle waste crime by refusing to engage the services of people that are not authorised. Don’t entrust your waste to someone if they are unable to tell you basic information like their SEPA waste carrier registration number and the named site they are taking the waste to.

“Remember, if they dispose of it illegally and we can trace the waste back to you – you can be held to account and prosecuted or fined as well. A legitimate operator should be able to tell you their SEPA waste carrier licence number and the exact location your waste will be taken to. If they won’t provide those two pieces of information don’t give them your waste.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Water added: “Illegal and irresponsible fly-tipping at this site has been a concern for a number of years, not least for our colleagues travelling to and from Perth Waste Water Treatment Works as they too often had to navigate dumped items and broken glass spilling onto the road.

“This is a good example of what can be achieved through collaborating with our partners, transforming the site into a cleaner, safer space for wider community and environmental benefit. We hope it encourages people to take pride in Perth and use the correct facilities to dispose safely of waste.”

Scotland has lowest life expectancy in western Europe, says Public Health Scotland chief executive

Paul Johnston, chief executive of Public Health Scotland, has called for a preventive approach to tackle the decline in the nation’s health.

In an article for the think tank Reform Scotland, Mr Johnston said the life expectancy gap between the richest and poorest was growing. He also called for a preventative approach for older people, warning that the burden of disease from an ageing population is likely to grow.

Mr Johnston said the health service could not deal with the issue alone and wide-ranging improvements around poverty, work, education, housing and other areas were needed.

Improvements in Scottish life expectancy stalled in about 2014 to 2016, and the most recent data showed a decline.

He went on to say said the NHS cannot deal with the issue alone and wide-ranging improvements around poverty, work, education, housing and other areas are needed.

Mr Johnston said: “Excellent health services will support improved health and wellbeing of our population as a whole – but cannot bear all the responsibility for this.

“Tackling poverty impacts on health, as does the availability of good work, high-quality education and childcare, affordable housing, addressing climate change, and tackling racism.”

He called for a “collective focus” on the issue, saying: “People in Scotland now die younger than in any other Western European country. People spend more of their lives in ill health.

“The gap in life expectancy between the poorest and the wealthiest is growing.

“We have seen great progress in the past but, at the moment, Scotland’s health is getting worse.

“We must be bold and brave in the face of the health challenges we face.

“A focus on increasing prevention is increasingly gaining traction and it is important we look to shape these opportunities, particularly in reforming and modernising our public services.”

Read the full article here.

Glasgow Science Centre – Our Amazing Air Learning Lab

Glasgow Science Centre will be running the latest session of the Learning Lab “Our Amazing Air” starting in April 2024. 

Learning Lab is an online  STEM  learning  programme for  the  classroom and home which aims to inspire and empower learners through relevant, varied learning experiences that take place over several weeks. Each unique programme comprises lesson plans, video content and interactions with experts as well as professional learning for teachers and family support.

The Our Amazing Air programme is intended to deliver a learning programme for P5 – P7 pupils supporting learners to investigate what air is and why it is so important for us, what air pollution is and how we monitor it, how air quality can be improved and some of the steps we all can take to have a positive impact on air quality and the environment.

The programme includes a variety of materials and support for teachers including an online teacher training session on 24 April 2024, classroom activities, and teaching materials delivered over a dedicated six week learning block of two hourly sessions per week, complementing the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) outcomes. The pupils also get the opportunity for a live meet the expert Q & A session and a visit to the Science Centre. The programme is available for every primary school in Scotland. The teaching session also culminates with resources and events to coincide with Clean Air Day, scheduled for 15th June.

For more information on the teaching programme see brochure here. To register for a place, or visit: Take Part in Learning Lab | Glasgow Science Centre

EFSA evaluates parasites in fish and related control methods

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have published a scientific opinion, which shows many of the most commonly farmed and consumed fish in the EU/EFTA show no evidence of parasites that can infect humans. However, parasites were found in some farmed species and more data is needed to determine how prevalent certain parasites are in farmed fish.  

Although limited, available scientific data from the EU/EFTA area, indicates that many species of farmed fish intended for the market are free from zoonotic parasite infection. These include Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, gilthead seabream, turbot, meagre, Atlantic halibut, carp, and European catfish.  

However, in European seabass, Atlantic bluefin tuna, cod, and/or tench produced in open offshore cages or flow-through ponds parasites like Anisakis and others were found

Fish produced in closed recirculating aquaculture systems with filtered water intake and heat-treated feed are almost certainly free of zoonotic parasites.  

EFSA’s experts concluded that more data is needed to estimate the prevalence of specific parasites in selected fish species, farming systems, and production areas within the EU/EFTA region. This would provide a comprehensive picture of the various combinations of main farmed fish species and relevant parasites. 

Experts assessed new methods for detecting zoonotic parasites in fishery products. These include UV-scanning, optical, molecular and OMICs methodologies.  

They also assessed methods for the inactivation of these parasites. Freezing and heating remain the most efficient ways to kill them. Ongoing research is also exploring the effectiveness of various processing techniques, such as high-pressure processing, pulsed electric field, air drying, dry-salting, double salting, and use of natural products.  

EFSA’s experts will determine by the year’s end whether any wild fish species from specific fishing areas pose a risk to public health due to the presence of zoonotic parasites.  

Call for indoor air quality standards, say international experts

An international group of experts are asking for mandatory indoor air quality standards, for spaces in which people spend a significant proportion of their time.

In a paper published by the journal Science, Professor Lidia Morawska, Vice-Chancellor Fellow at the University of Surrey, along with a team of over 40 air quality specialists from around the world, has recommended setting standards for ventilation rate and three key indoor pollutants: carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and PM2.5.

Professor Morawska said: ‘Most countries do not have any legislated indoor air quality performance standards for public spaces that address concentration levels of indoor air pollutants.

‘To have practical value, indoor air quality standards must be implementable by designing new buildings that are built, operated and maintained to standard or retrofitted to meet the standards.

‘While there is a cost in the short term, the social and economic benefits to public health, wellbeing and productivity will likely far outweigh the investment in cost in achieving clean indoor air.’

The paper identifies five challenges that need to be addressed: 

Source contributions: Indoor air quality is affected by sources indoors and out. Significantly, indoor air is affected by humans breathing – the cause of most respiratory infections and controlling respiration is not as  simple as addressing other sources.

Monitoring: Methods used to measure outdoor air quality – monitoring networks and modeling – cannot  be applied to indoor air quality and significantly, there is no way to monitor indoor pathogens in real time.

Legislation: Guidelines and Standards are insufficient unless they are adopted in legislation but even then challenges exist in terms of monitoring and enforcement. 

Industry priorities: An example cited here is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry, which focusses primarily on thermal comfort and energy efficiency, which is what the public are demanding. Any legislative changes will likely haver a financial impact on industry, so they will tend to resist it. 

The social and political dimension: Introducing standards is complex for a variety of reasons, not least because of issues of local attitudes, custom and the potential cost involved.  

Recognising that enforcement of indoor air quality standards in homes is unfeasible, the report suggests that standards be mandatory for public spaces while homes are designed and equipped to meet those standards, with ventilation a key.

Professor Morawska said: ‘The technologies for measuring ventilation already exist in most modern mechanically ventilated buildings but monitoring ventilation rates in terms of clean air delivered to the space requires us to consider the number of people and their activities in the space to ensure adequate IAQ.

‘A practical ventilation standard could be air from outside (assumed to be clean), or clean recirculated air to the entire occupied zone and with airflow not directed from one person to another.

‘Additional measures in support of ventilation, such as air cleaning and disinfection, could greatly reduce the need to increase the outdoor air supply, which carries a heavy energy demand.

‘Filtering recirculated air is an effective way to reduce concentration of, and thus our exposure to, airborne particulate matter, allergens and pathogens.’

Focus should be on pollutants which can be monitored easily and cheaply, specifically PM2.5, CO2 and CO.

Professor Morawska again: ‘CO2 can serve as a proxy for occupant-emitted contaminants and pathogens and to effectively assess ventilation quality,” she said.

‘We propose a CO2 concentration level of 800ppm with the proviso that outdoor concentration is used as a baseline and recognition of the fact that outdoor concentrations are increasing due to emissions to the atmosphere that outweigh removal.

‘Another key indicator of air quality we addressed is the amount of PM2.5 and we propose the WHO air quality guidelines as a basis for indoor air quality standards but with a 1-hour averaging time, as the 24 hours of the WHO AQG is much longer than people usually spend in public places.’

The paper ‘Indoor air quality standards in public buildings’ is published in Science.

EU proposes change to Listeria in RTE food rules

The European Commission (EC) has published proposed amendments to its regulations for Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. This is in an effort to align EU rules with Codex Alimentarius standards. If adopted, the new regulations would go into effect after January 1, 2026. The draft act is open for public comment until May 8, 2024.

The draft regulations would amend Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005, which sets the criteria for certain microbial contaminants in food and implements hygiene requirements for food producers.

At present, Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 states that, with the exception of foods intended for infants and special medical purposes, L. monocytogenes cannot be detected in 25 g of RTE foods (that are able to support pathogen growth over time to eventually exceed 100 cfu/g) before such products leave the production facility. However, Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 does not provide that the same criterion applies to these foods once they have left the immediate control of the producing food business operator.

The EC is proposing amendments to Annex I of Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 to guarantee the same level of public health protection from production to distribution for RTE foods (other than those intended for infants and for special medical purposes) that are able to support the growth of L. monocytogenes. The proposed amendments would apply the criterion “L. monocytogenes not detected in 25 g” to all situations where covered RTE foods are placed on the market during their shelf-life and for which the producing food business operator has not been able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the competent authority, that the level of L. monocytogenes will not exceed the limit of 100 cfu/g throughout the food’s shelf life.

The amendment is in light of the fact that that the number of human listeriosis cases in the EU rose by 15.9 percent from 2021 to 2022, and because 2022 saw one of the highest fatality rates associated with foodborne listeriosis, EU regulators determined it necessary to update the food safety criteria for L. monocytogenes to protect public health.