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

RESULTS FROM PREVIOUS YEARS

The 2009 Results
Results for CY 2009 are presented in Tables 23 and 24. As mentioned earlier, beginning January 2008, FSIS started reporting results based on sample collection date, unlike prior years, where results were reported based on analysis completion date. Therefore, 2009 results are reported based on sample collection date. The 10 product category list used from 1983 through 2008, was modified in November 2009, to include at least 8 additional product categories based on a blend of both product type and process type. This modification should improve the effectiveness in the analysis of RTE product testing results. Due to the modification made in 2009, CY 2009 results are reported based on the sampling projects (RTE001, ALLRTE, and RLmProd), and not on product categories as in prior years. Therefore, the product category results in CY 2008 cannot be compared with CY 2009, since different product codes were used in 2009, but summary results from the sampling projects in CY 2009 can be compared with the summary results of CY 2008, since results from both years are presented based on the sample collection date. The results of the total number of RTE samples analyzed in CY 2009 for Salmonella and L. monocytogenes are presented in Tables 23 and 24 respectively.

A total of 2,761 samples were analyzed for Salmonella in the ALLRTE sampling project and 8,158 in the RTE001 sampling project in CY 2009 (Table 23). Of the 10,919 samples analyzed in both the ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling projects, there were 4 positive samples (one from ALLRTE and three from RTE001), resulting in a 0.04 percent positive rate.

Table 24 represents the total number of products analyzed for L. monocytogenes in the ALLRTE, RTE001, and the risk-based L. monocytogenes (RLm) sampling projects. A total of 2,761 and 8,158 samples were analyzed for L. monocytogenes in the ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling projects respectively. Seven positive samples were observed in the 2,761 ALLRTE samples analyzed (0.25 percent positive), and of the 8,158 samples analyzed in RTE001 sampling project, there were 35 positive samples (0.43 percent positive). The RLm sampling program was modified in September 2009, to include 45 establishments per month, and establishments were scheduled using a risk-based algorithm, that takes into consideration the level of inspection, production volume, control alternative, and sampling history of the establishment, similar to the risk-ranking algorithm that was used prior to 2008. A total of 1,351 products (RLmProd) were analyzed for L. monocytogenes in the RLm sampling program in CY 2009. Of the 1,351 samples analyzed, 3 positives samples were observed, resulting in 0.22 percent positive rate.

A total of 12,270 product samples were tested in CY 2009 for L. monocytogenes, excluding all follow-up, investigative, and imported samples, and a 0.37 percent positive rate was observed (45 positive samples) across all projects ( Table 24). The numbers presented in Table 24 does not include the 4,524 food contact surface and 1,168 environmental samples that were analyzed as part of the RLm sampling program in CY 2009.

The total number of product samples analyzed for L. monocytogenes, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7 in all the RTE sampling projects in CY 2009 was 23,699. Follow-up and imported samples are not included.

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The 2008 Results
The results for CY 2008 are presented in Tables 21 and 22. Prior to 2008, results were reported for analyses of samples completed by the end of the calendar year. Beginning January 2008, results were posted to include all samples collected within the calendar year, to better align FSIS' activities with those of other federal partners. The Agency does not anticipate this change to have any effect on the results presented. The 2008 results cannot be compared directly with results from previous years, since data from previous years is reported by the date the analysis was completed (analysis end data). The 10 product categories introduced in CY 2001 and listed in Table 4 were continued for CY 2008. Therefore, all results are organized around those 10 product categories. The results from CY 2008 for Salmonella and L. monocytogenes are presented in Tables 21 and 22 respectively.

The total number of samples analyzed for Salmonella for both the ALLRTE and RTE001 sampling programs in 2008 is shown in Table 21. Of the 12,041 samples analyzed, 5 positive samples were observed, resulting in a percent positive rate of 0.04.

The total number of products analyzed for L. monocytogenes in 2008 is presented in Table 22. All samples analyzed for the ALLRTE, RTE001, including the product sample results from the Routine Risk-based L. monocytogenes sampling program (RLm), designated as RLmProd is shown in Table 22. RLmProd, indicates that only the product component of the RLm sampling program is reported. In September 2008, the FSIS implemented some changes to RLm Sampling Program. The RLm program was modified to include establishments producing 95% of the domestic volume of RTE meat and poultry products, instead of the risk-ranking algorithm previously used. A total of 13,001 product samples were tested for L. monocytogenes in CY 2008, excluding all follow-up sampling and sampling of imported products. The percentage of positive product samples across all projects was 0.42%. Table 22 does not include the 5,047 product contact surface and environmental samples that were analyzed as part of RLm sampling program.

The total number of analyses for L. monocytogenes, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 performed on RTE samples in CY 2008 was 30,644. This number does not include follow-up and import samples.

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The 2007 Results
The results for CY 2007 are presented in Tables 19 and 20. The 10 product categories introduced in CY 2001 and listed in Table 4 were continued for CY 2007, so all results are organized around those 10 product categories. The results from CY 2007 for Salmonella are presented in Table 19. The results for L. monocytogenes are presented in Table 20. Table 20 includes the product sampling results from RLm, designated as RLmPROD to indicate it is just the product portion of RLm. A total of 12,665 products were tested for L. monocytogenes in CY 2007, excluding all follow-up sampling and sampling of imported products. The percentage of positive product samples across all projects was 0.43%. Table 20 does not include 5,198 product contact surface and environmental samples that were analyzed as part of RLm. The total number of analyses for L. monocytogenes, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 in CY 2007 was 30,113, not including follow-up samples and imports. The total of 30,113 analyses increased from 27,505 in CY 2006.

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The 2006 Results 
FSIS initiated three changes during CY 2006. First, the RTERISK1 project was discontinued, although there were still 328 results reported in 2006 from samples that were scheduled at the end of 2005. Second, the ALLRTE project was modified so that establishments were randomly picked each month from the population of establishments that were not scheduled that month for a risk-based sample under project RTE001. With this change more establishments were scheduled each month and the possibility of ever getting two samples representing the same product was further minimized. This change did, however, limit the ALLRTE results as a trend indicator. The concept behind ALLRTE was to get a random sample across the full range of RTE products and across all establishments producing an RTE product. Since many establishments were scheduled every month for an RTE001 sample, they were never available for random selection in the ALLRTE project. Given that the percentage of positive results for RTE001 was less than 0.5 percent for either Salmonella or L. monocytogenes, the ALLRTE results for CY 2006 were most likely higher than they would have been had all establishments had the chance of being sampled each month.

The third change for CY 2006 was the introduction of RLm, the risk-based intensified sampling project where products, product contact surfaces and environmental surfaces are sampled in conjunction with a comprehensive FSA. Establishments are selected for RLm based on a risk ranking algorithm that is formed by previously developed peer-reviewed risk assessments and the ongoing results from FSIS tests of RTE meat and poultry products. Once an establishment is selected for RLm, the products are selected using the same hierarchy as described above for RTE001. Instructions for RLm are contained in FSIS Directive 10,240.5, March 15, 2006 (PDF Only).

The results for CY 2006 are presented in Tables 17 and 18. The 10 product categories listed in Table 4 were continued for CY 2006, so all results are organized around those 10 product categories. The results from CY 2006 for Salmonella are presented in Table 17. The results for L. monocytogenes are presented in Table 18. Table 18 includes the product sampling results from RLm, designated as RLmPROD to indicate it is just the product portion of RLm. A total of 12,372 products were tested for L. monocytogenes in CY 2006, excluding all follow-up sampling and sampling of imported products. The percentage of positive product samples across all projects was 0.48%. Table 18 does not include 2,745 product contact surface and environmental samples that were analyzed as part of RLm. Thus, the number of L. monocytogenes analyses remained above 15,000 for the second consecutive year and the total number of analyses for L. monocytogenes, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 was 27,505.

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The 2005 Results
During CY 2005, FSIS continued projects ALLRTE and RTERISK1 that were initiated in CY 2004. FSIS also initiated a new project identified as RTE001. This new project is the first HACCP verification project where RTE establishments are not equally likely to be scheduled each month. Rather, each month an RTE001 sample is requested from a list of establishments with the highest risk ranking for L. monocytogenes. This ranking is based on a number of factors including the RTE Alternative(s) used by the establishment, the volume of production for post-lethality exposed products, and the sample results from previous testing for L. monocytogenes.

The instructions for implementing RTE001 were first issued as FSIS Notice 61-04, issued on December 23, 2004, which were later incorporated into FSIS Directive 10,240.4, February 3, 2009 (PDF Only). This Directive instructs sample collectors to select the highest risk post-lethality exposed RTE product produced at the time of collection. Directive 10,240.4 provides a hierarchy of products to sample that has been revised from that described above for RTERISK 1. A key difference is that deli products have been divided into those that are sliced in the inspected establishment and those shipped intact to be sliced at grocery store deli counters and other retail outlets. The hierarchy for RTE001 is:

  1. Deli-meats that are sliced in the federal establishment
  2. Deli-meats shipped whole from the federal establishment (this does not include cook-in-bag products; only those exposed post-lethality)
  3. Hotdog Products
  4. Deli salads, pâtés, and meat spreads
  5. Fully cooked type products (other than cooked products in 1-4 above)
  6. Fermented products
  7. Dried products
  8. Salt-cured products
  9. Products labeled as "Keep Frozen"


The results for CY 2005 are presented in Tables 15 and 16. There was a major increase in RTE sampling in CY 2005, where almost 16,000 samples were analyzed for both Salmonella and L. monocytogenes. The 10 product categories listed in Table 4 were continued for CY 2005 so all results are organized around those 10 product categories. The results from CY 2005 for Salmonella are presented in Table 15. The results for L. monocytogenes are presented in Table 16.

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The 2004 Results
FSIS issued Directive 10,240.4 in October 2003 to implement 9 CFR part 430 that was published on June 6, 2003 (68 FR 34207). Under the new Directive, the Agency defined two new sampling projects for CY 2004. These projects were identified as All Ready-to-Eat (ALLRTE) and Ready-to-Eat Risk1 (RTERISK1). Under the project ALLRTE, inspection program personnel were instructed to collect, at random, a RTE product that fit the previous definitions of targeted or low-targeted products. In other words, the Agency wanted random samples across a wide variety of RTE products, but didn't want to expend resources testing the products that have low risk for supporting growth of pathogens like fats and oils, dried soup mixes, and popped pork skins.

Most of the samples would be scheduled under RTERISK1. Product selection under RTERISK1 would be based on the risk-based guidance provided in FSIS Directive 10,240.4, October 2003. Under both projects, all RTE establishments were equally likely to be scheduled each month. However, once a RTERISK1 sample was scheduled, inspection program personnel were instructed to collect only Alternative 3 products if they were available. (Definitions for RTE Alternatives 1, 2, and 3, can be found in 9 CFR 430.4.) Within Alternative 3, FSIS Directive 10,240.4 provided the hierarchy of (1) deli meats, (2) hotdogs, (3) deli salads, pâté, meat spreads, and (4) other product. Inspection program personnel would collect an Alternative 2 product only when Alternative 3 was not available, and an Alternative 1 product only if the establishment produced no Alternative 2 or 3 products. The intent of this risk based sampling project was to always select the highest risk product. So an establishment that was always producing Alternative 3 deli meats would have their Alternative 3 deli meats sampled every time a RTERISK1 sample was scheduled. For this reason, there would be an expectation that the percentage of positive samples would be higher in RTERISK1 than under ALLRTE sampling. The 2004 findings did show some difference.

The results for CY 2004 are presented in Tables 13 and 14. The 10 product categories listed in Table 4 were continued for CY 2004 so all results are organized around those 10 product categories. The results from CY 2004 for Salmonella are presented in Table 13. The results for L. monocytogenes are presented in Table 14.

FSIS Directive 10,240.4, issued October 2, 2003 is no longer available on the Web site. However, the project for ALLRTE is still in place under the current RTE sampling directive: FSIS Directive 10,240.4, Revision 2, February 3, 2009 (PDF Only). The project RTERISK1 was continued through CY 2005, but was discontinued at the beginning of CY 2006.

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The 2003 Results
FSIS Directive 10,240.3 defined three categories of products; targeted, low-targeted and non-targeted products. Low-targeted products included products that were less likely to support growth of L. monocytogenes because of low pH, low water activity, the addition of antimicrobial agents, or because the product could be expected to remain frozen from production until preparation for consumption. Non-targeted products included regulated products such as lard, mixtures of animal fats, popped pork skins, dried soup mixes, and products labeled for further processing in which the product would be expected to receive a lethality treatment.

Most of the RTE sampling for 2003 was conducted under a project designated as Target sampling for the collection of targeted and low-targeted products. Under FSIS Directive 10,240.3, when inspection program personnel received a form requesting a sample under the Target project, the form included instructions to collect a RTE sample from other than non-targeted products, giving priority to high (e.g., deli meats) and medium risk products (e.g., franks/hotdogs). Each form requested the collector to designate the product as a targeted product or low-targeted product.

Under the Target project, all establishments producing targeted or low-targeted RTE products were equally likely to be scheduled each month. Under FSIS Directive 10,240.3, FSIS did not sample non-targeted products. The reduced sampling frequency, that had been part of FSIS Directive 10,240.2, was discontinued.

The results for CY 2003 are presented in Tables 11 and 12. The 10 product categories listed in Table 4 were continued for CY 2003 so all results are organized around those 10 product categories. The results from CY 2003 for Salmonella are presented in Table 11. The results for L. monocytogenes are presented in Table 12. The majority of results are for targeted products. For L. monocytogenes, the results for targeted and low-targeted products were essentially the same, 0.81 percent positive for targeted products and 0.84 percent positive for low-targeted products. However, there was no expectation that the contamination levels at production would be different, only the potential for growth during the shelf life.

The majority of results are for targeted products. For L. monocytogenes, the results for targeted and low-targeted products were essentially the same, 0.81 percent positive for targeted products and 0.84 percent positive for low-targeted products. However, there was no expectation that the contamination levels at production would be different, only the potential for growth during the shelf life.

FSIS Directive 10,240.3 is no longer available on the Web site. See the current RTE sampling directive: FSIS Directive 10,240.4, Revision 2, February 3, 2009 (PDF Only).

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The 2001-2002 Results
In December of 2000, FSIS discontinued basing its RTE testing program on selected product categories and instead began basing the program on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) processing categories identified in 9 CFR 417.2 that apply to ready-to-eat (RTE) products. This is detailed in FSIS Directive 10,240.2, Microbial Sampling of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Products for the FSIS Verification Testing Program, which became effective in December 2000. The Performance Based Inspection System (PBIS) identified the establishments that had HACCP plans in the processes like 03G, Fully Cooked/Not Shelf Stable or 03E, Not Heat Treated/Shelf Stable or 03F, Heat Treated/Shelf Stable, or 03I, Product with Secondary Inhibitors/Not Shelf Stable. Thus, samples were scheduled based on the different RTE HACCP Processes utilized in USDA-Inspected establishments. Samples were randomly scheduled in the establishments where the RTE processes existed.

Results were recorded both by the HACCP Processes used for scheduling and by the 10 product categories listed in Table 4 (USDA/FSIS microbiological HACCP verification testing program for RTE meat and poultry products produced in USDA-inspected establishments). Laboratory personnel assign the Table 4 product categories to the product samples when they arrived at the laboratory.

The 10 product categories were identified based on factors that could be expected to affect the probability that a product could become contaminated during post-lethality exposure or factors that could relate to the effectiveness of the kill step. For example, the categories identified products that were exposed to unique types of post-lethality processing equipment such as peelers or slicers or shredders. The categories also distinguished whole muscle cuts from products where the internal tissues were more likely to have been contaminated before the kill step, e.g., a chopped and formed product.

The sampling projects implemented in December 2000 added both RTE products and establishments that had not been included in the nine microbiology monitoring projects reported for 1990 through 2000. In addition, FSIS Directive 10,240.2 provided for reduced sampling frequency in establishments that had sampling programs meeting criteria outlined in the Directive. Thus, the results for 2001 and 2002 are not directly comparable to the results published for previous years.

Table 5 (Percent Positive Salmonella Tests for RTE meat and poultry products, CY 2001), Table 6 (Percent Positive L. monocytogenes Tests for RTE meat and poultry products, CY 2001), Table 7 (Percent Positive Salmonella Tests for RTE meat and poultry products, CY 2002), Table 8 (Percent Positive L. monocytogenes Tests for RTE meat and poultry products, CY 2002), Table 9 (Percent Positive Salmonella Tests for RTE meat and poultry products, CY 2001-2002-combined results), and Table 10 (Percent Positive L. monocytogenes Tests for RTE meat and poultry products, CY 2001-2002-combined results), represent the percentage of positive regulatory samples collected and analyzed under FSIS Directive 10,240.2.

The overall RTE sampling program, under which those products were tested and whose results are displayed in Tables 5 through 10, was outlined in FSIS Directive 10,240.2, which was issued in December 2000, but is no longer available on the FSIS Web site. See current RTE sampling directive: FSIS Directive 10,240.4, Revision 2, February 3, 2009 (PDF Only).

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The 1990-2000 Results
The information presented in Table 1 (USDA/FSIS microbiological testing projects for RTE meat and poultry products produced in USDA-inspected establishments in CY 1990-2000) lists the product categories used for scheduling samples collected until the end of 2000. Table 2 (Percent Positive Salmonella Tests for RTE meat and poultry products, CY 1999-2000) and Table 3 (Percent Positive L. monocytogenes Tests for RTE meat and poultry products, CY 1990-2000) represent 11 years (1990-2000) of results from FSIS testing of RTE meat and poultry products. A more detailed description of these microbiological testing projects and test results for the years 1990 through 1999 has been published in the Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 64, No. 8, 2001, Pages 1188-1193.

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Last Modified Mar 24, 2014