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L.m. Risk Assessment, Action Plan Slated for Release in December

Wednesday, November 29, 2000

The much-anticipated Listeria monocytogenes (L.m.)risk assessment and action plan are expected to be released later in December, according to government officials. News reports this week detailed a planned release November 30, but the release reportedly was postponed due to ongoing disagreements between USDA and FDA over the order in which various foods should be ranked according to their relative risks.

According to news reports, a forthcoming proposed rule that is part of the action plan will require ready-to-eat products that do not receive a lethality treatment in impervious inedible final packaging and that support the growth of L.m. to contain use-by dates. Such use-by dates would be determined within the establishment's HACCP plan and would set the date after which the product could no longer be consumed safely. The action plan also includes new testing requirements, outreach to physicians who care for populations at-risk for listeriosis infections, and a host of other new requirements for USDA and FDA-regulated products, reports indicate.

The release is a response to a call from President Clinton in May 2000 to develop action plans within 120 days to reduce the incidence of listeriosis by 50 percent by 2005. Specifically, he directed FSIS to complete proposed regulations that include any appropriate microbiological testing. He called upon FSIS to ensure that industry do three things: prevent cross-contamination in the processing environment, meet all appropriate standards and ensure that products are safe throughout their shelf lives. The President called upon FDA to identify and reduce contamination in at-risk foods. Finally, he asked both agencies to consider the need for enhanced labeling as a "consumer safeguard."

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