On Jan. 25, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will launch a year-long nationwide pilot project to assess whether retailers are using the recommendations in the FSIS Best Practices Guidance for Controlling Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) in retail delicatessens.

As part of the pilot project, FSIS compliance investigators will complete a questionnaire, which will be used to assess practices in product handling, cleaning and sanitizing, facility and equipment controls and employee practices. FSIS will use these findings to determine whether retailers are following the Lm control measures recommended in the FSIS Retail Lm Guideline. Compliance investigators will discuss with retailers vulnerabilities that are observed during the survey, but FSIS will not be asking the retail operator to complete the survey.

FSIS performed a pre-pilot project at 16 retail establishments in various parts of the country Dec. 8-15, 2015 to gather information for the pilot project. Preliminary findings indicated that retailers were not aware of the FSIS Retail Lm Guideline, at least at the store level, and additional outreach is needed.

The pre-pilot also found that a higher percentage of retailers followed the facility and equipment controls and employee practices recommendations (94% and 83% respectively) than the product handling and cleaning and sanitizing recommendations (65% and 63%, respectively).