Meat Industry Groups Unite to Combat Listeria

OAKLAND, CA – Meat industry groups have united to combat Listeria monocytogenes and other disease causing bacteria that may strike Ready-to-Eat (RTE) products. This unprecedented unity and sharing of food safety information has led to the production and release of a new resource document:

Guidelines for Developing Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Environmental Sampling/Testing Recommendations (ESTRs) for Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Products.

RTE meat products are important meat food products. Truly convenient food for millions of consumers, they are widely distributed and consumed as snack foods, sandwich fillings, picnic items, deli buffet foods and in lots of other ways without any further food preparation. Unfortunately, this convenience has been marred by certain strains of Listeria found to be pathogenic to some people. Listeria, unlike most other pathogens, continues to grow under refrigerated conditions. The heat processing of RTE products destroys these bacteria; however, because they are so common in the environment, they can sometimes find their way back into the food. Safe handling is particularly important to prevent recontamination with Listeria, because it will continue to grow even when the product is vacuum packed and held under refrigerated conditions.

A group of organizations, including NMA, has sponsored the development of the new Guidelines. In developing these Guidelines, operational personnel from firms producing RTE products met with Dr. Kerri Harris of Texas A & M University. In addition, a group of industry microbiologists met with Dr. John Blackwell from Food Marketing Services International Inc. to develop the ESTRs. The Guidelines are being made available to all RTE producers to help perfect production practices.

"These are really excellent guidelines, with lots of really good information about how to insure the safety of these products," said National Meat Association executive director Rosemary Mucklow. "We’re very excited to have joined a united industry in developing such positive, proactive measures."

National Meat Association is a non-profit trade association representing meat packers and processors, as well as equipment manufacturers and suppliers who provide services to the meat industry. The association, with over 600 members throughout the United States, includes membership in Canada, Australia and Mexico.