WASHINGTON – Inspectors with the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service have new instructions to verify meat and poultry firms' compliance with the federal Listeria Rule.

Key points of the directive include:

• Verification of the establishment’s compliance with the Listeria Rule
• Verification that establishment’s sampling and testing programs meet the requirements of the Listeria Rule
• Collecting and submitting FSIS verification samples
• Enforcement actions in response to a positive sample result

FSIS issued the new directive because its research showed that sanitation and HACCP non-compliances, followed by Listeria Rule non-compliances were the most common cause of deficiencies in establishments that produce ready-to-eat products.

“Through an analysis of sampling data, FSIS determined that some establishments may temporarily alter their routine production, sanitation or food-safety practices when FSIS collects an RTE sample,” FSIS noted. “By altering routine practices, establishments may make changes that are not consistent with their documented food-safety system. Such changes may impede FSIS’s ability to assess the safety of the product and the adequacy of the routine process. This directive provides IPP with instructions for taking action in establishments that change their routine practices.”