October 21, 2003
USDA Reports Safer Meat in US Due To Fewer Presence of Harmful Germ Listeria
Meat inspectors are finding less of the harmful germ listeria in meat, the US Department of Agriculture said Friday.
Of 7,500 samples, 0.75% were positive for listeria monocytogenes in 2002, a 25% drop from 2001 and half of the percentage of positive samples found in 2000, officials with the department's Food Safety and Inspection Service said.
"FSIS has taken aggressive action to prevent contamination of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products by listeria monocytogenes, and our testing is verifying that our programs are effective," said Garry McKee, administrator of the food safety agency.
Department officials noted they saw a drop despite an increase in testing for the bacteria.
Last year, Pilgrim's Pride, the owner of Wampler Foods in Pennsylvania, issued one of the largest recalls in history for 27.4 million pounds of sliced deli poultry after government officials detected the presence of listeria in a floor drain.
It was the same strain found in an outbreak that killed eight people and sickened 45 others.
The investigation also led another company, J.L. Foods in New Jersey, to recall more than 4 million pounds of chicken and turkey sandwich meat because inspectors found a similar strain there.
Listeria is especially dangerous for pregnant women, children and the elderly. It can cause flu-like symptoms, stillbirths and results in death cases too.