USDA Releases Listeria Rule

Statement Of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal

June 4, 2003

After five years of waiting, the Bush administration today issued a near-final regulation requiring hot dog and ready-to-eat meat processors to test their plants for the presence of Listeria. But without a minimum requirement for testing, the rule has no minimum guarantee of consumer protection.

Despite two major risk assessments, USDA claims it doesn’t have enough science to mandate minimum testing requirements for both meat plants and their products. Consumer protection against Listeria has been delayed for years and consumers have suffered serious harm. Since 1998, there have been three major outbreaks from Listeria, causing dozens of deaths and hundreds of illnesses.

The new regulation gives USDA access to important information that plants until now could withhold from government inspectors. While that is an improvement, certain weaknesses in the final rule means USDA risks having another hocus-pocus food safety regulation that puts each company in charge of designing its own safety systems without adequate government oversight.


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