WASHINGTON – A set of draft guidelines is being provided by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to help small and very small meat and poultry manufacturers reduce harmful bacteria in ready-to-eat foods. The guide features standard regulatory procedures and will help establishments understand how best to operate to ensure a safer quality product, according to FSIS.

FSIS will accept comments for 60 days and will then update the document in response to suggestions.

“The prevention of foodborne illness is our top priority,” said Al Almanza, FSIS administrator. “These guidelines spell out FSIS’ recommended best practices when it comes to producing food items that consumers usually do not cook before eating. Our goal is to help industry apply some of the recent lessons we have learned so they can prevent future problems, resulting in safer ready-to-eat food for consumers.”

FSIS said it has improved guidelines for ready-to-eat meat and poultry products with special emphasis on the causes of several illness-related recalls in 2010. In some instances, pathogens were introduced to the products after they had undergone processing. The compliance guide illustrates measures to help prevent contamination in these types of situations, such as the application of a spice or sauce to products after cooking or curing.

New requirements for the meat and poultry industry are not required by the draft guide and it is designed to assist small and very small manufacturers in meeting current FSIS regulations. FSIS will post the draft compliance guide on itsSignificant Guidance Documents website.