Food Safety and Inspection
National Advisory Committee on
Updated July 21, 2003
Dr. Donald Zink, Working Group Chair
Background and Work Charge
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) “Healthy People 2010” reflects the Federal government’s public health goals for the next decade. Reducing the incidence of foodborne listeriosis by 50% is one of the priority public health goals identified in that report. Subsequent to the publication of “Healthy People 2010,” President Clinton directed Federal food safety agencies to meet this goal by 2005. As a means of focusing their efforts and using the best science available, the DHHS/Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) undertook the development of a quantitative microbial risk assessment entitled, “The Relative Risk to Public Health from Foodborne Listeria monocytogenes Among Selected Categories of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Foods.” The results of the draft risk assessment reinforced the critical interrelation between the temperature and time of refrigerated storage on the microbiological safety of refrigerated RTE foods. In particular, the risk assessment suggests that maintaining proper refrigeration temperatures throughout the shelf life of the product, i.e., production, distribution, retail storage, and in the home, in combination with limiting the duration of shelf life for refrigerated RTE foods that support the growth of L. monocytogenes may be an important means of reducing the consumers’ risk of foodborne listeriosis.
Currently, food packages contain dating information which may refer to “best if used by,” “best if purchased by,” “consume by,” etc. Such date labeling is typically oriented toward quality attributes, even thought it has been suggested that some consumers view the label date as a “safe to consume” date. As a result of the risk assessment, FDA and FSIS are evaluating the usefulness of establishing safety-based “use-by” dates in reducing the risk of foodborne listeriosis. As identified in the FDA/USDA Listeria monocytogenes Risk Management Action Plan, the agencies would like to assure that the best scientific information currently available is considered in safety-based shelf life determinations. Thus, we are seeking the advice of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) on the requisite scientific parameters for establishing safety-based use-by dates for refrigerated RTE foods to help reduce the incidence of foodborne listeriosis. This includes the identification of the critical parameters that influence the growth and survival of Listeria monocytogenes in this category of products. The questions before the NACMCF are:
These questions are broad in their scope. The FDA and FSIS recognize that there are related issues that must be considered before the questions appearing above can be fully addressed. Consequently, a supplemental background paper is provided which explores some of these issues.
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