A recent issue of the Journal of Food Protection, published by the International Association for Food Protection, sheds some light on the apparent risks posed by ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry. High risks were associated with small and very small operations.

During a scientific study running from 2005 to 2012, a research team collected 24,385 random or ALLRTE samples from 3,023 USDA-regulated establishments; and 66,653 risk-based or RTE001 samples from 2,784 establishments.

Using USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service protocols, all the samples were tested for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes and then evaluated for the percentages of Salmonella-positive samples, product types with positive samples, and Salmonella serotypes.

The authors say there were also descriptive summaries with respect to establishment hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) size, production values, Listeria monocytogenes control alternatives, geographic location, and season or month of sample collection.

“Results showed low occurrences of Salmonella-positive samples from the ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling projects, with 14 positive samples (0.06 percent) for ALLRTE and 33 positive samples (0.05 percent) for RTE001,” the Journal abstract says. “Percentages of establishments with at least one Salmonella-positive sample averaged 0.46 percent for ALLRTE and 1.11 percent for RTE001.”

The scientists found three product types — sausage products, pork barbecue, and head cheese — accounted for 62 percent of all positive samples. There were 27 distinct serotypes from 48 Salmonella isolates. Serotypes Infantis and Typhimurium were the most common with five isolates each. All but one of the Salmonella-positive samples were obtained from establishments with HACCP-defined sizes of small or very small.

“More than half of the positive samples were obtained from establishments using L. monocytogenes control alternative 3 (sanitation only, highest-risk category),” the researchers reported. “Positive Salmonella samples were found in all geographic regions at all times of the year. Information obtained from these sampling projects is relevant to the prevention of foodborne Salmonella illnesses from RTE meat and poultry products.”

Citation: STEPHEN W. MAMBER, TIM MOHR, KRISTINA BARLOW, PHILIP A. BRONSTEIN, CARRIE LEATHERS, and NELSON CLINCH. (2018) The occurrence of Salmonella in Ready-to-Eat Meat and Poultry Product Samples from U.S. Department of Agriculture–Regulated Producing Establishments. II. Salmonella in Ready-to-Eat Pork Barbecue Products, from 2005 to 2012. Journal of Food Protection 81:10, 1737-1742.
Online publication date: 24-Sep-2018.

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