2003 FSIS Listeria Risk Assessment
SCOPE AND MANDATE
This risk assessment was initiated in February 2002 in response to public comments on the Food Safety and
Inspection Service (FSIS) proposed rule: Performance Standards for the Production of Processed Meat and
Poultry Products [66 FR 12589, February 27, 2001]. Several comments indicated a need for a stronger
scientific basis for the proposal to require testing and sanitation of food contact surfaces for Listeria species.
This risk assessment was developed to: 1) provide insight into the relationship between Listeria species on
food contact surface(s) and Listeria monocytogenes in RTE meat and poultry products; and 2) evaluate the
effectiveness of food contact surface testing and sanitation regimes, pre- and post-packaging interventions,
growth inhibitors, and combinations of these interventions to mitigate contamination of RTE meat and
poultry products and reduce the subsequent risk of illness or death from Listeria monocytogenes.
PUBLIC HEALTH REGULATORY CONTEXT
Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen that results in about 2,500 cases of listeriosis annually in the
United States. Of these cases, approximately 90% require hospitalization, and 20% progress to death. Those
at greatest risk of listeriosis are the elderly, those with suppressed or compromised immune systems (e.g.,
those who have received a bone marrow transplant, cancer treatment, etc.), and fetuses and newborns.
Listeria monocytogenes occurs widely in both agricultural (e.g., soil, water and plants) and food processing
environments (e.g., air, drains, floors, machinery). This pathogen grows at low oxygen conditions and
refrigeration temperatures, and therefore survives for long periods of time in the environment, on foods, in
processing plants, and in household refrigerators. Although frequently present in raw foods (dairy, meat,
poultry, fruits, and vegetables), Listeria monocytogenes can also be present in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods due