The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s final directive “Microbial Sampling of RTE Products for the Verification Testing Program” is risk-based and acknowledges that product formulation, product pH, water activity, the use of microbial inhibitors and post packaging pasteurization all can impact the presence and growth of Listeria monocytogenes (L.m.) on ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry products. In other words, all RTE meat and poultry products do not present the same public health risks. FSIS has correctly acknowledged that these factors should be considered so that limited inspection resources can be concentrated where they can have the greatest impact on public health.
The final directive also provides an incentive for plants to implement environmental control programs and share the data with FSIS to further protect the safety of RTE meat and poultry products. These preventive systems have been adopted by many companies and are the frontline defense to control L.m. in plants that produce RTE products.
The presence of L.m. on RTE meat and poultry products has trended downward consistently for the last decade and today occurs at very low levels. Illnesses associated with L.m. also are trending downward, according to the Centers for Disease Control. We are hopeful that this directive, coupled with industry’s own research programs and technology innovations, will ensure that the trends continue in directions that will protect the public health.
AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Together, AMI's members produce 95 percent of the beef, pork, lamb and veal products and 70 percent of the turkey products in the U.S. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory, public relations, technical, scientific and educational services to the industry. Its affiliate, the AMI Foundation, is a separate 501(c)3 organization that conducts research, education and information projects for the industry.