April 14, 2005
"Continued important reductions in foodborne illnesses announced
today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate
that USDA's aggressive attention to science based policies and effective
enforcement strategies are protecting public health by making meat,
poultry and egg products safer.
"In its 2004 report on the incidence of infection with pathogens
transmitted commonly through foods, the CDC noted significant declines
from the 1996-98 baseline in illnesses caused by E. coli
O157 (42%), Listeria monocytogenes (40%), Campylobacter
(31%) and Yersinia (45%). Overall, Salmonella
illnesses have fallen by 8%.
"Dramatic multi-year reductions in illnesses from E. coli O157
means the U.S. is now below the Healthy People 2010 goal of 1.0
case per 100,000 persons, according to the CDC. This is a remarkable
national achievement. We are also very close to meeting the Healthy
People 2010 goal set for illnesses from Listeria monocytogenes
and Campylobacter. This year's report tells us that reductions
in foodborne illness reported in 2003 were not an isolated event
and that sustained progress is being made toward reducing illness
from very dangerous foodborne pathogens. While the CDC data is inclusive
of infections associated with all food sources and from contact
with live animals and their environments, it is consistent with
the results of regulatory testing of meat, poultry and egg products
by the Food Safety and Inspection Service.
"Earlier this year, FSIS released data showing a 43.3% drop in
the percentage of E. coli O157:H7 positive ground beef
regulatory samples collected in 2004 compared with the previous
"In addition to regulatory testing results, recalls for E.
coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella
in FSIS regulated products dropped from 65 in 2002 to 23 in 2004.
"In 2002, FSIS required all beef plants to reexamine their food
safety plans, based on evidence that E. coli O157:H7 is
a hazard reasonably likely to occur. Plants that had previously
not done so were required to implement measures that would eliminate
or sufficiently reduce the risk of E. coli O157:H7 contamination
of their products. Scientifically trained FSIS personnel then systematically
assessed those food safety plans for scientific validity and compared
what was written in plant Hazard Analysis and Critical Control
Point (HACCP) plans to what was taking place in daily operations.
A majority of plants have made major changes to their operations
based on the directive, including the installation and validation
of new technologies specifically designed to combat E. coli O157:H7.
Many plants have also increased their testing for E. coli O157:H7
in order to verify their food safety systems.
"In 2003, FSIS significantly enhanced its approach to oversight
of establishments producing Ready-to-Eat products through an interim
final rule for the control of Listeria monocytogenes. The
rule also provided incentives for industry to implement new preventive
measures. A report released in 2004 found that many plants have
made significant improvements to their control processes, such as
adding antimicrobial ingredients to their product formulations to
inhibit the growth of Listeria monocytogenes and installing
a post-processing treatment step to eliminate the pathogen. In addition,
the report found that plants have either initiated or greatly increased
their testing for Listeria or Listeria-like organisms
on plant surfaces that come in contact with products after cooking.
These testing data are used by FSIS inspection personnel to determine
the effectiveness of sanitation and other control measures.
"We are encouraged by the advances that have been made in decreasing
the risk of foodborne disease associated with FSIS regulated products.
These declines must be continued, and at the same time, further
progress must be made for pathogens such as Salmonella."