Keeping deli slicers clean is important, but the CDC has found that not all delis take the right steps.  

ATLANTA – Regular cleaning of slicers in deli operations can reduce the risk of foodborne illness, but a study by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention revealed that many delis don’t follow recommended deli cleaning practices.

In interviews with staff and managers at randomly selected sites, CDC’s Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) found that approximately half of the delis surveyed fully cleaned (disassembled, cleaned and sanitized) their slicers less often than the US Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation of every four hours.

CDC said insufficient frequency of cleaning deli slicers raises the risk of cross-contamination of deli meats with Listeria monocytogenes or other foodborne pathogens. Listeria causes the third highest number of foodborne illnesses, and delis are a major source of listeriosis cases attributed to deli meat, CDC reported.

To reduce this risk, CDC strongly encouraged adoption of FDA’s Food Code at all levels of government. The Food Code is a model food code that contains science-based guidance to improve food safety in retail food establishments. The code states that food contact surfaces, including slicers, should be cleaned and sanitized every four hours and all food contact surfaces should be disassembled before cleaning and sanitizing. Currently, industry compliance with the Food Code is voluntary.

The CDC study also found that independent and smaller delis had lower frequencies of slicer cleaning. “Compared with both independent and smaller delis, chain and larger delis might have more resources, more or better trained staff or more standardized cleaning procedures,” the agency noted.

In addition to its recommendation that all levels of government adopt FDA’s Food Code, the CDC said state and local governments should require deli manager training and certification, and should consider encouraging or requiring delis to have written slicer-cleaning policies. Establishments with mandatory food safety training for managers, workers knowledgeable about food safety and written policies for slicer cleaning fully cleaned their slicers more frequently compared with other types of delis, CDC said.