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AMI Commends Government for Looking at Total Foodborne Listeria Risk

Friday, January 19, 2001

AMI commended FDA and FSIS for coordinating efforts to assess the risk of contracting listeriosis from the total ready-to-eat U.S. food supply.
The agencies yesterday released a draft risk assessment http://www.foodsafety.gov/~dms/lmrisk.html for public comment and today released their proposed action plan http://www.foodsafety.gov/~dms/lmriplan.html to reduce human illness from Listeria monocytogenes. The risk assessment was designed to predict the potential relative risk of listeriosis among three age-based groups of people -- pregnant women, the elderly and young children -- from eating certain ready-to-eat foods. It evaluated foods within 20 categories considered to be the principal sources of L.m.
Ready-to-eat meats were segregated into four categories: frankfurters, deli meats, dry and semi-dry sausages and pate and meat spreads. On a per serving basis, pate and meat spreads had the highest relative risk and reheated frankfurters had the lowest relative risk among the four meat categories. When data were analyzed on a per-annum basis deli meats had the highest relative risk ranking and dry and semi-dry sausages had the lowest relative risk ranking among the four categories.
The risk assessment reinforces previous conclusions that foodborne listeriosis is an uncommon but potentially severe illness, and that at-risk populations need to take special precautions.
FDA and FSIS advise consumers to consume perishable, precooked or ready-to-eat items quickly, clean refrigerators regularly and use a thermometer to ensure refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees F or colder. The assessment advises at-risk consumers to cook all ready-to-eat meats until steaming hot and avoid fresh soft cheeses, refrigerated meat spreads and refrigerated smoked seafood. The draft action plan suggests redirecting enforcement and regulatory strategies and proposing new regulations and revisions to existing regulations. AMI said any new regulatory requirements, such as more microbiological testing or new labels, should be applied evenly across the ready-to-eat food industry.
"It is unfair to sample some foods known to support the growth of L.m. but not others," said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle. The draft risk assessment and action plant respond to a May 5, 2000, directive from President Clinton calling for a 50 percent reduction of the number of Listeria related illnesses by 2005 -- five years ahead of the previously established Healthy People 2010 target. AMI's statement on the draft risk assessment and action plan can be read at http://www.meatinstitute.org/Template.cfm?Section=Current&NavMenuID=274&template=PressReleaseDisplay.cfm&PressReleaseID=321.

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