In part one of our meat industry year in review, we looked at some of the year’s highlights that were not food safety related. For part two, we’re looking at the variety of food safety highlights focused on the primary pathogens of concern– Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella.

Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli

In 2012, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service implemented an expanded STEC adulteration policy to include six additional strains (dubbed “Big Six”).  While the industry has focused mainly on E. coli O157:H7 and has seen dramatic reductions in both illnesses and regulatory data, addressing the Big 6 strains has also been a priority.  AMI Foundation research demonstrates that commonly used interventions employed against O157:H7 were also effective against the “Big Six.”  Since the regulatory expansion, there have been no recalls or illness outbreaks attributed to these STEC in meat products.

Listeria monocytogenes

The industry continues to implement interventions against Listeria monocytogenes(Lm) – both on product and in the plant — and has successfully continued to reduce the prevalence of Lm on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, by 81 percent since 2000.  Complementing this dramatic reduction has been the absence of recalls due to Listeria illnesses on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products since 2003.

Salmonella

Salmonella is the number one food safety concern of the industry concern for 2013.  It affects each segment of the protein complex.  We have focused our efforts on understanding the pathogenicity of Salmonella and the strains and products that can impact public health.

The Big Picture

Overall for the year, less than one third of recalls (25/82) to date in 2012 were related to these pathogens, which is down from nearly 60 percent in 2008.

Looking forward, USDA’s new test and control policy, should provide an added layer of food safety protection when it becomes effective on February 8, 2013.  As AMI President J. Patrick Boyle said, “Consistent with our requests in 2008 and 2009, AMI has long advocated the practice of controlling tested product and not using it before test results are received.  Preventing potentially adulterated meat and poultry products from reaching consumers provides additional public health protection.”

These are just a few of the positive developments that occurred in the meat and poultry industry in 2012. In fact we believe the industry has so much good news to tell, we’ll be making it a priority at AMI in the coming year. We’ll write more about some of the other priorities for the organization and industry in January. Until then, we’re wishing you a Happy, Meaty New Year!

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