Alliance for Listeriosis Prevention - Statement

October 21, 2003 - Release of the Listeria Risk Assessment Document by the Food and Drug Administration

The risk assessment document punctuates and solidifies the now-extensive body of science supporting a strategic approach to listeriosis prevention. With regard to foodborne Listeria monocytogenes, this is a catalyst that will help allocate industry control measures, as well as inspection, enforcement and education resources, more effectively to further protect public health.

The risk assessment is not a finding that certain foods are dangerous, or "high risk." Rather, it is an assessment of where the greatest potential risk may exist for foods to become contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

In a demonstration of the fact that risk assessment is a dynamic process, the risk assessment does not include recent data that is important to understanding the current state of prevention efforts. On October 17, 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service released data showing a one-year, 25 percent drop in the percentage of positive Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, and a 70 percent decline compared with years prior to the implementation of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system. The data reflects recent food safety technology advancements, including aggressive environmental monitoring, microbial inhibitor ingredients and cooking technologies. Given that risk assessment is a dynamic process, ongoing efforts should encourage periodic reassessment to evaluate progress. Regrettably, the risk assessment also does not distinguish between deli meats in full-service delis and pre-packaged deli meats.

The food industry, health and medical professionals, government and consumers share the belief that unsafe food should not be sold - period. A discerning approach to listeriosis prevention will help ensure this firm philosophy and reality are one and the same. Critical to this approach are the practical knowledge that some foods do not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes, the principle that environmental monitoring should be encouraged and not discouraged by public policy, and the acknowledgement that listeriosis prevention strategies should keep pace with advances in scientific knowledge that are sure to continue.

Listeriosis prevention is a public health issue. It requires effective actions across the farm to table continuum, in addition to strategic and vigilant preventive measures in the food production environment. An example of an important public health strategy beyond the food production environment is the education of populations particularly vulnerable to listeriosis by members of the medical community.

Members of the Alliance for Listeriosis Prevention will continue to work with the government and all other stakeholders on this vital public health issue on behalf of the most important stakeholders of all - consumers.

The Alliance for Listeriosis Prevention includes organizations with an interest in strategic approaches to preventing the contraction of listeriosis. The Alliance has evolved from a working group of food industry associations that began working together in pursuit of this common interest.

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