The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are reevaluating the health risks of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. The agencies have opened a period for public comment on the topic.

In 2003, FDA and FSIS conducted a quantitative assessment of the relative health risks of Listeria in 23 different categories of ready-to-eat foods. This latest evaluation will update that assessment, incorporating any new information that has arisen since that time.

FDA and FSIS are requesting advice on the approach that will be taken to conduct the assessment. The agencies are also seeking information on the risks of Listeria in RTE foods and strategies for reducing Listeria contamination.

The results of the assessment will help FDA and FSIS as they consider policy, resource-allocation, research and outreach decisions, among other issues, related to the bacteria.

Areas of interest for the assessment include the following:

— L. monocytogenes contamination in various RTE foods sampled at retail or in processing plants

— L. monocytogenes survival and growth dynamics in RTE foods

— The relationship between the dose of L. monocytogenes ingested and frequency of listeriosis

— Current food consumption practices in the U.S.

— Food production practices in the U.S. that may affect L. monocytogenes prevalence, concentration, survival or growth in RTE foods

— Storage times and temperatures that may affect L. monocytogenes growth during transport and storage of foods in consumers’ homes

— Other comments, including the RTE food categories that should be evaluated

To learn more about the initiative, or how to submit information, view the notice in the Federal Register.