The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) conducted microbiological testing programs for ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry products produced at approximately 1,800 federally inspected establishments. All samples were collected at production facilities and not at retail. We report results here for the years 1990 through 1999. Prevalence data for Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli O157:H7, or staphylococcal enterotoxins in nine different categories of RTE meat and poultry products are presented and discussed. The prevalence data have certain limitations that restrict statistical inferences, because these RTE product-testing programs are strictly regulatory in nature and not statistically designed. The cumulative 10-year Salmonella prevalences were as follows: jerky, 0.31%; cooked, uncured poultry products, 0.10%; large-diameter cooked sausages, 0.07%; small-diameter cooked sausages, 0.20%; cooked beef, roast beef, and cooked corned beef, 0.22%; salads, spreads, and pâtés, 0.05%; and sliced ham and luncheon meat, 0.22%. The cumulative 3-year Salmonella prevalence for dry and semidry fermented sausages was 1.43%. The cumulative 10-year L. monocytogenes prevalences were as follows: jerky, 0.52%; cooked, uncured poultry products, 2.12%; large-diameter cooked sausages, 1.31%; small-diameter cooked sausages, 3.56%; cooked beef, roast beef, and cooked corned beef, 3.09%; salads, spreads, and pâtés, 3.03%; and sliced ham and luncheon meat, 5.16%. The cumulative 3-year L. monocytogenes prevalence for dry and semidry fermented sausages was 3.25%. None of the RTE products tested for E. coli O157:H7 or staphylococcal enterotoxins was positive. Although FSIS and the industry have made progress in reducing pathogens in these products, additional efforts are ongoing to continually improve the safety of all RTE meat and poultry products manufactured in federally inspected establishments in the United States.

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Author notes

The mention of specific products does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Retired.