On February 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) resubmitted to the Federal Register a proposed regulation to help prevent contamination of Listeria and other harmful pathogens.

Originally submitted in January 2001, the proposed regulation would require meat and poultry establishments to conduct food contact surface testing for generic Listeria or address post-lethality contamination in their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans.

The proposed regulation identifies the need for additional scientific information and analytical data that, if addressed, could strengthen the scientific foundation of the rule. In order to facilitate public input and gather additional information, USDA's FSIS will schedule public meetings to discuss the scientific issues behind the proposal during the 90-day comment period. USDA's Agricultural Research Service will participate in the scientific discussions.

Written comments must be submitted within 90 days after the proposed regulation is published in the Federal Register to the USDA-FSIS Docket Clerk, Docket #97-013P, Room 102 Cotton Annex, 300 12th St. S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-3700.

Listeria causes an estimated 2,500 serious illnesses and 500 deaths each year. Foodborne illness caused by Listeria in pregnant women can result in miscarriage, fetal death or severe illness or death of a newborn infant. Others at risk for severe illness or death are older adults and those with weakened immune systems.