Manufacturers of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products have “dramatically” improved the safety of their products during the last decade and plan to use what they have learned in battling this pathogen to make further process in the years to come, said American Meat Institute Foundation Chief Scientist Betsy Booren, Ph.D last week. Booren made her remarks last week in a public meeting sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to discuss an Interagency Risk Assessment of Listeria monocytogenes in Retail Delicatessens that the two agencies recently released. Food Safety News reported on this risk assessment here. According to a press release from AMI on Booren’s remarks, the processed meat and poultry industry’s efforts to identify food safety strategies and to share research and best practices related to L. monocytogenes prevention and control have been key factors in preventing listeriosis outbreaks linked to meat and poultry products.  No ready-to-eat meat and poultry product recalls have been triggered by listeriosis outbreaks since 2003 and listeriosis cases from all foods (not just meat and poultry) have declined steeply since 2000, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Booren called these facts a true “triumph” of the industry’s non-competitive approach to food safety. Said AMI:

AMI’s Board of Directors in 2001 voted to adopt a non-competitive approach to food safety challenges to encourage Institute members to share strategies and technologies that enhance food safety.  Since 1999, AMIF has funded 42 research projects total approximately $2.9 million focusing on how to reduce and eliminate Listeria monocytogenes in RTE products. In addition, since 2000, AMIF had held more than 25 peer-taught workshops on Listeria control and prevention attended by more than 1,600 people.  AMIF also created detailed equipment and facility design principles to encourage the design of both equipment and facilities in ways that optimize sanitation, which is one of the most critical Listeria control strategies. Together, these efforts have transformed our ready-to-eat meat and poultry product food safety profiles.

Booren thanked FSIS and FDA officials for the data contained in risk assessment and for their transparent approach. “The risk assessment and the data it contains allow us to evaluate if our food safety process management systems are working,” she said. “We believe collaboration is a model for success, which is why we have partnered with the Food Marketing Institute, its Foundation and its retail members and will continue to do so,” she concluded.  “We are all part of the food safety chain, and our meat and poultry processors are willing to meet with the retailers, share our experiences and develop partnerships to ensure the products we produced are safe and wholesome.”