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FSIS Microbiological Testing Program for Ready to Eat (RTE) Meat and Poultry Products, 1990–2011

A timeline of the ready-to-eat testing programs is also available.
 


INTRODUCTION

FSIS has conducted a regulatory microbiological testing program for Ready-To-Eat (RTE) meat and poultry products since 1983. The data reported here are from sampling projects covering the years 1990 through 2011. These data do not include the results of follow-up sampling that FSIS conducts in response to a positive result. FSIS currently analyzes the samples for microbial hazards of public health concern, including Listeria monocytogenes ( Lm) and Salmonella. FSIS also analyzes samples of RTE egg products for Lm and Salmonella, but these results are not included here. FSIS laboratories located in Alameda, Ca., St. Louis, Mo., and Athens Ga., perform all regulatory analyses of RTE products.

All text, tables, and graphs prior to 2008 are reported by sample completion. Beginning in 2008, results are reported by sample collection within the calendar year to better align FSIS' activities with those of other federal partners. The Agency does not anticipate this change to have an effect on the results presented. Throughout the history of the FSIS microbiological RTE regulatory sampling program, the individual projects evolved in response to public health concerns. The data reported here include individual sampling projects implemented under the overall RTE program. Although not designed to test for statistically significant changes from one year to the next, the aggregate data provide an overall indication of trends.

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THE 2011 RESULTS

Tables 27 and 28 present results for CY 2011. Beginning January 2008, FSIS began reporting results based on sample collection date rather than analysis completion date. In November 2009, the 10 product category list used from 1983 through 2008 was modified to include at least eight additional product categories based on a blend of both product type and process type. The 2009 modification prevents a direct comparison of results with subsequent years due to different product codes. Tables 27 and 28 provide the results of the total number of RTE samples analyzed in CY 2011 for Salmonella and Lm, respectively.

In CY 2011, FSIS analyzed 3,293 samples for Salmonella in the ALLRTE sampling project and 8,864 samples in the RTE001 sampling project ( Table 27). Of the 12,157 samples analyzed in both the ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling projects, there were 11 positive samples (three from ALLRTE and eight from RTE001), resulting in a 0.09 percent positive rate.

Table 28 presents the total number of products analyzed for Lm in the ALLRTE, RTE001, and the risk-based Lm (RLm) sampling projects. FSIS analyzed 3,295 and 8,885 samples for Lm in the ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling projects respectively. Eight positive samples were observed in ALLRTE (0.24 percent positive), and 27 positive samples were observed in the in RTE001 samples (0.30 percent positive). FSIS analyzed 1,973 products (RLMPROD) for Lm in the RLm sampling program in CY 2011. The sampling results produced three positives samples, resulting in 0.15 percent positive rate.

FSIS analyzed 14,153 samples in CY 2011 for Lm, excluding all follow-up, investigative and imported samples, resulting in a 0.27 percent positive rate (38 positive samples) across all projects ( Table 28). The numbers presented in Table 28 do not include the 6,826 samples of food contact surface and 698 composited environmental samples analyzed as part of the RLm sampling program in CY 2011.

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THE 2010 RESULTS

Tables 25 and 26 present results for CY 2010. Beginning January 2008, FSIS began reporting results based on sample collection date rather than analysis completion date. In November 2009, the 10 product category list used from 1983 through 2008 was modified to include at least eight additional product categories based on a blend of both product type and process type. The 2009 modification prevents a direct comparison of results with subsequent years due to different product codes. Tables 25 and 26 provide the results of the total number of RTE samples analyzed in CY 2010 for Salmonella and L. monocytogenes, respectively.

In CY 2010, FSIS analyzed 3,152 samples for Salmonella in the ALLRTE sampling project and 8,704 samples in the RTE001 sampling project ( Tables 25). Of the 11,856 samples analyzed in both the ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling projects, there were four positive samples (one from ALLRTE and three from RTE001), resulting in a 0.03 percent positive rate.

Table 26 presents the total number of products analyzed for L. monocytogenes in the ALLRTE, RTE001, and the risk-based L. monocytogenes (RLm) sampling projects. FSIS analyzed 3,153 and 8,704 samples for L. monocytogenes in the ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling projects respectively. Ten positive samples were observed in ALLRTE (0.32 percent positive), and 24 positive samples were observed in the in RTE001 samples (0.28 percent positive). FSIS analyzed 1,854 products (RLMPROD) for L. monocytogenes in the RLm sampling program in CY 2010. The sampling results produced four positives samples, resulting in 0.22 percent positive rate.

FSIS analyzed 13,711 samples in CY 2010 for L. monocytogenes, excluding all follow-up, investigative and imported samples, resulting in a 0.28 percent positive rate (38 positive samples) across all projects ( Table 26). The numbers presented in Table 26 do not include the 6,393 samples of food contact surface and 668 composited environmental samples analyzed as part of the RLm sampling program in CY 2010.

FSIS analyzed 13,711 samples, which included L. monocytogenes, Salmonella, and/or E. coli O157:H7 in all the RTE sampling projects in CY 2010. Data from follow-up and imported samples are not included.

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DISCUSSION

FSIS does not view the results of regulatory testing as estimates of national product prevalence. The Agency, however, does consider the RTE regulatory results to be an excellent indicator of the trends in pathogen presence in RTE products over several years. The Agency implemented the ALLRTE project in order to have Lm results to compare with earlier years (before CY 2004) as the Agency moved to make its RTE projects less random and more risk-based.

In 2007, the Agency recognized that sampling changes limited the use of ALLRTE results as a trend indicator. ALLRTE was designed to obtain random samples across the full range of RTE products and establishments producing an RTE product. FSIS schedules many establishments every month under RTE001; therefore, the establishments are not routinely sampled under ALLRTE. Because of continuing concerns about ALLRTE as a trend indicator, the Agency included two graphs illustrating the trend in results from regulatory sampling for Lm. One graph (PDF) used the ALLRTE results from CY 2004 through CY 2011. The second graph (PDF) used the sum of all product sampling from each year, regardless of sampling type.

Data from CY 2008 to present cannot be compared to previous years because of the change in how the sample collection is identified. In addition to reporting by collection date, the RLm sampling program was modified in CY 2008 to increase the number of samples collected from high volume establishment. In August 2009, a new food safety prioritization model was implemented and the number of establishments sampled per month was tripled to 45 establishments/month. Previous years applied a risk ranking algorithm that scheduled 15-17 establishments per month.

For CY 2011, FSIS analyzed 12,157 samples for Salmonella in both the RTE001 and ALLRTE sampling projects. Eleven positive samples were observed with a 0.09% positive rate ( Table 27). The 3,293 ALLRTE samples produced three positive samples, resulting in a 0.09 percent positive rate. The 8,864 RTE001 samples produced eight positive samples, resulting in a 0.09 percent positive rate ( Table 27).

For CY 2011, FSIS analyzed 14,153 product samples for Lm ( Table 28). The 3,295 ALLRTE samples produced eight positive samples, resulting in a 0.24 percent positive rate ( Table 28). For CY 2010, the 3,153 ALLRTE samples produced 10 positive Lm, resulting in a 0.32% positive rate (shown in Figure 1). Figure 1 illustrates the percent of RTE regulatory samples positive for Lm from 1990 through 2011. The results include all of the RTE sampling programs from 1990 through 2003 and the ALLRTE sampling program from 2004 through 2011. Figure 2 illustrates the percent of RTE regulatory samples positive for Lm from 1990 through 2011, using all product sampling programs. The data shows a continuing and consistent decline in the percent of positive samples from 1990 to 2011.

For CY 2011, the RTE001 sampling program identified 27 positive Lm results from the 8,885 samples analyzed, resulting in a 0.30 percent positive rate. For CY 2010, the RTE001 sampling program identified 24 positive Lm results from the 8,704 samples analyzed, with a positive rate of 0.28 percent.

FSIS analyzed 1,973 product samples for Lm in the RLm sampling program in CY 2011. These samples produced three positive samples, resulting in a 0.15 percent positive rate ( Table 28). For CY 2010 the RLm program analyzed 1,854 RLm product samples for Lm. The results produced four positive Lm product samples, resulting in a 0.22 percent positive rate ( Table 26).

Listeria monocytogenes

The RTE001 sampling project remains a risk-based project that targets the higher risk product categories of deli meats and hotdogs. This project is now the primary method where inspectors collect a single product on a specific day. The RLm project complements the RTE001 project.

The 10 product categories introduced in December of 2000 identify factors that could affect the probability of product contamination during post-lethality exposure or effectiveness of the kill step. Over the past several years, these product categories have appeared to provide some differentiation in the results, at least in the area of potential for post-lethality exposure to Lm. For example, FSIS CY 2004 data indicated that the highest percentage of samples positive for Lm in each year had been in the sliced, diced, and shredded product category where exposure to product contact surfaces would be considered high.

From 2001 through 2004, FSIS had analyzed samples from 5,143 sliced, diced, or shredded products and recorded 91 positive results (1.77 percent positive).

In CY 2005 and CY 2006, the percentages of positive samples for sliced and diced products were noticeably lower, 0.67 percent and 0.83 percent, respectively.

In CY 2007, FSIS analyzed 3,408 samples of sliced and diced products and found positive results in only 0.38 percent, a dramatic change from the 2.59 percent positive of CY 2001. For CY 2007, the highest positive rate was for multi-component products at 0.88 percent (12 positives in 1,356 samples). Examples of multi-component products include sandwiches or wraps, as well as dishes, such as lasagna and chicken fried rice. Sliced, diced, or shredded products had the highest number of positive samples in both the ALLRTE and RTE001 projects.

In CY 2008, ALLRTE had a 0.45 percent positive rate across all product categories but a 0.79 percent positive rate in the sliced, diced, and shredded product category. Similarly, RTE001 had an overall percent positive rate of 0.39 and a 0.49 percent positive rate for the sliced, diced, and shredded product category.
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Because of the change in product categories implemented in November 2009, the CY 2009 product categories results cannot be compared with results from previous years. The ALLRTE had a 0.25 percent positive rate across all product categories (7 positives in 2,761 samples analyzed), and the RTE001 had a 0.43 percent positive rate (35 positives in 8,158 samples analyzed), across all product categories.

Salmonella

As noted above, the 10 product categories were based on factors that relate to the effectiveness of the kill step. The Salmonella results for RTE products do not indicate any differences related to the effectiveness of lethality. FSIS testing has consistently found very low levels of Salmonella in RTE products.

While the percentage of samples positive for Salmonella in CY 2006 had been the lowest level since the implementation of HACCP (2 positives in 11,842 samples), FSIS found 10 positives in 11,651 samples for CY 2007 (0.09 percent), the highest percentage since 2002.

In CY 2008, the 12,041 RTE samples analyzed for Salmonella in both the ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling programs ( Table 21) identified five positive samples (0.04 percent positive). The 3,120 samples analyzed for the ALLRTE sampling program resulted in a 0.13 percent positive (4 positives in 3,120 samples). In the RTE001 sampling program, the percent positive rate was 0.01 percent (1 positive in 8,921 samples analyzed).

In CY 2009, ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling programs identified four Salmonella positive samples in the 10,918 samples analyzed (0.04 percent positive) ( Table 23). FSIS analyzed 2,761 samples for Salmonella in the ALLRTE sampling project, with one positive result observed (0.04 percent positive). FSIS analyzed 8,158 samples in the RTE001 sampling project, with three positive samples observed (0.04 percent positive).

Other Pathogens

The Agency has also tested RTE products for E. coli O157:H7 and staphylococcal enterotoxins. From 1994 through 2010, FSIS tested 10,478 RTE products (cooked beef patties and dry fermented sausages) for the presence of E. coli O157:H7 (excluding imported products). All RTE samples tested for E. coli O157:H7 have been negative. Between 1994 and December 2002, FSIS tested 3,105 RTE products for the presence of staphylococcal enterotoxins, and all tests were negative. FSIS discontinued testing of RTE products for staphylococcal enterotoxins in January 2003 and E. coli O157:H7 in September 2010.

Index of Tables & Figures | Results From Previous Years
 
Contact Information:
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Office of Public Health Science
Microbiology Division
Nisha Oatman Antoine, MPH
Phone: (202) 690-6369
FAX: (202) 690-6364

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Last Modified Jun 08, 2013