But if Listeria is everywhere and it persists under normal food storage conditions, why aren't infections more common? Well, for one thing, companies do their utmost to eliminate bacterial growth niches in their processing plants - especially after a "kill" step (eg. cooking) - by sanitary design (eliminating nooks and crannies that are difficult to clean) and proper cleaning, followed by other quality control testing. In 2006 (old news, I know), the FDA approved another tool for use in an anti-Listeria arsenal: bacteriophage.
Bacteriophage are bacteriolytic viruses and have a history of use as an antibiotic in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Bacteriophage is the bane of some food making (and other) processes - those based on bacterial fermentation, such as yogurt production. For Listeria management it was approved and recognized as a safe food additive by the FDA in August, 2006. The phage used is a mix of 6 different forms used to target different Listeria strains and to minimize development of resistance. The phages themselves are grown in Listeria and purified before being applied just prior to packaging. The FDA has a FAQ about the bacteriophage additive. (Unfortunately I couldn't find any information about phage use in Canadian food manufacturing, or if there was an uproar in the US when the decision was made) This decision opened the door for other phage uses in the food industry, such as controlling E. coli or Salmonella in a similar way. The designation as 'safe' may also help resurrect the idea of using bacteriophages as antibiotics, particularly to combat emerging superbugs (MRSA).
So there you have it - that turkey sandwich you had for lunch may be a turkey and phage sandwich, so keep it away from your probiotic yogurt.