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USDA Announces Strategy To Combat Listeria

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced several long- and short-term strategies to combat contamination of ready-to-eat-meat and poultry products by the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. Consumption of foods contaminated with this pathogen can cause the potentially fatal disease listeriosis, several outbreaks of which occurred in late 1998 and early 1999. In the short term, the FSIS is advising plants to reassess their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) preventive control plans to ensure that they adequately address the pathogen. Additionally, the agency recommends that manufacturers conduct environmental testing for general Listeria species, test product contact surfaces for general Listeria species, and test end products for the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. Several long-term initiates to control Listeria monocytogenes are also underway by the FSIS:

  • The agency will ask the USDA's Agricultural Research Service to study the post-production growth of Listeria during fiscal year 2000.
  • The agency is developing a verification protocol that can be used to evaluate plants' HACCP plans for ready-to-eat products.
  • In conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration, a risk assessment of Listeria is underway by the FSIS.
  • The agency is developing food-safety standards for ready-to-eat products.
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