The persistence of Listeria monocytogenes in food-associated environments represents a key factor in transmission of this pathogen. To identify persistent and transient strains associated with production of fermented meat sausages in northern Portugal, 1,723 L. monocytogenes isolates from raw material and finished products from 11 processors were initially characterized by random amplification of polymorphic DNA (RAPD), PCR-based molecular serotyping, and epidemic clone characterization, as well as cadmium, arsenic, and tetracycline resistance typing. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) typing of 240 representative isolates provided evidence for persistence of L. monocytogenes for periods of time ranging from 10 to 32 months for all seven processors for which isolates from different production dates were available. Among 50 L. monocytogenes isolates that included one representative for each PFGE pattern obtained from a given sample, 12 isolates showed reduced invasion efficiency in Caco-2 cells, including 8 isolates with premature stop codons in inlA. Among 41 isolates representing sporadic and persistent PFGE types, 22 isolates represented lysogens. Neither strains with reduced invasion nor lysogens were overrepresented among persistent isolates. While the susceptibility of isolates to lysogenic phages also did not correlate with persistence, it appeared to be associated with molecular serotype. Our data show the following. (i) RAPD may not be suitable for analysis of large sets of L. monocytogenes isolates. (ii) While a large diversity of L. monocytogenes subtypes is found in Portuguese fermented meat sausages, persistence of L. monocytogenes in this food chain is common. (iii) Persistent L. monocytogenes strains are diverse and do not appear to be characterized by unique genetic or phenotypic characteristics.