The US meat industry has expressed concerns over new Listeria control guidelines released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In a letter to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the American Meat Institute (AMI) questioned why the guideline on Listeria monocytogenes control in post-lethality ready-to-eat meat and poultry products had been revised without input from the meat and poultry industry. It said it was particularly concerned that the compliance guide was issued to meat inspectors before the end of the 60 day comment period, pointing out that it contained a number of errors.
“The meat and poultry industry likely would have been able to provide additional assistance or guidance in advance of this draft being issued to field personnel. Revising the Guideline after it has already been adopted may lead to confusion among the industry and/or field personnel, resulting in unintended consequences and the misuse of FSIS resources,” said the letter.
It added that it was concerned about the “true purpose” of the compliance guides, pointing out that despite recognising the fact that the information did not represent new regulations, the FSIS stated that
“by following the recommendations, establishments can strengthen their control programs, and decrease the potential of foodborne illness from their products”.
“These statements imply that if the guidelines are not followed safe products will not be produced and establishments could be out of compliance,” said the letter.
Finally, AMI said FSIS should have made it clearer that the guidelines had been revised as part of efforts to improve the effectiveness of policy documents, rather than in response to an increase in detection of listeria in meat and poultry products. It pointed out that the percentage of positive results for listeria has actuallly decreased, with no major outbreaks since the last guidelines were issued.
“This success is likely attributable to the codification of the Listeria rule that was based on strong scientific underpinnings and creation of the regulations by the agency working with industry to achieve a solid performance for improving public health,” it said.