FSIS is putting the cart before the horse by proposing a new Listeria monocytogenes (L.m.) control regulation before they've finalized their Listeria risk assessment.
Last month, AMI applauded the government's comprehensive approach to both its draft L.m. risk assessment and action plan: both examined the full spectrum of ready-to-eat foods to explore ways to reduce listeriosis, a very rare, but serious foodborne illness.
We think the government ought to use this broad approach in all of its efforts to reduce foodborne illnesses. Begin with a comprehensive risk assessment, then proposed risk management tools - including regulatory, technological and educational efforts.
But a proposed rule is simply that - a proposal - and while we may question the timing or content of this proposal, we certainly share government's ultimate goal of preventing food-borne listeriosis.
The meat and poultry industry has made significant progress in its battle against L.m. First, we have reduced the incidence of this bacteria in hot dogs and luncheon meats, as documented by both government and industry. Second, we have developed numerous technologies, ingredients and practices to prevent L.m. from contaminating our products. Third, we have aggressively educated our managers and workers about the latest improvements in L.m. prevention. Fourth, we have stepped up voluntary environmental testing in our plants. Fifth, we have worked through the Partnership for Food Safety Education to provide food safety information to consumers and healthcare providers about listeriosis prevention among at-risk consumers.
If the government's final risk assessment suggests that any new regulatory actions should be taken, such as microbiological testing, then we believe such actions should be applied evenly across the ready-to-eat food industry. It is inappropriate to sample some foods known to support the growth of L.m. but not others.
So we look forward to responding to this proposed rule, helping government complete its draft L.m. risk assessment and providing our thoughtful and practical recommendations on how best to prevent listeriosis.
AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.