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Controlling Listeria in RTE meat and poultry products

By Joe Whitworth+

15-Jan-2014

The compliance guideline for firms to follow to meet the Listeria Rule has been updated by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS).

Updates include more information about technologies to control Listeria, develop a control program to test for itor an indicator organism on food contact surfaces (FCS) and making enhanced sampling programs in response to positive results from routine sampling.

More information has been provided about validation of post-lethality treatments and antimicrobial agents.

The compliance guideline provides recommendations that firms producing post-lethality exposed ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry product may follow to meet 9 CFR part 430, the Listeria Rule.

FSIS revised the version to address comments on the draft in September 2012.

Collective input

One comment questioned why the guideline only used FSIS input and not the meat and poultry industry.

“As FSIS has done with all guidance documents it has issued in recent years, FSIS sought industry input by seeking comment on the guidance. This practice has allowed FSIS to incorporate comments and feedback from industry and other interested parties,” said FSIS.

“FSIS will routinely update guidance documents to reflect the most current information available to FSIS and its stakeholders. FSIS agrees that the success of the Listeria regulation has been the affect of efforts from industry and FSIS to control contamination of RTE products.”

RTE products include deli items, hotdog products, whole hams, sausages and meat salads.

The document provides guidance to assist establishments in meeting FSIS regulations.

It represents best practice, based on scientific and practical considerations, and does not reflect requirements that must be met.

Alternative treatments

It provides alternatives such as using a post-lethality treatment (PLT) to reduce or eliminate the pathogen and an antimicrobial agent or process (AMAP) to limit or suppress pathogen growth.

PLT for Listeriamay include steam pasteurization, hot water pasteurization, radiant heating, high pressure processing (HPP), ultraviolet (UV) treatment, infrared treatment, drying.

The guidance gives information on sanitation, testing for Listeria monocytogenes and prevention of cross contamination of post-lethality exposed, RTE meat and poultry products.

Listeriosis is estimated to cause 1,600 foodborne illnesses, 1,500 hospitalizations, and 260 deaths annually (Scallan et al., 2011).

Listeria can grow in cool damp environments where other pathogens may not and is capable of surviving freezing temperatures.

It can also resist high salt levels, nitrite, and acid and grow in vacuum packaged products.

RTE products are of particular concern for contamination because they support the growth of the pathogen during refrigerated storage and are often eaten without further cooking.

FSIS revised the guidance to clarify that as well as meeting requirements of the Listeria Rule, they must meet the benchmark 9 CFR 416, Sanitation, and 9 CFR 417, HACCP Systems.