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The Scripps Howard News Service reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as imposed new sanitation and inspection regulations on the nation's meat processing plants.

USDA says that the some 2,500 plants that manufacture ready-to-eat meat products "must add Listeria-killing ingredients to their products or adopt packaging methods aimed at keeping the bacterium out of the product," according to the report.

The American Meat Institute said it was satisfied with the new rules.

However, consumer groups were less sanguine, saying that the new rules amounted to a watering down of Clinton administration-era proposals that would have mandated more testing in plants.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, called the new rule "another hocus-pocus food-safety regulation" that gives industry too much autonomy and government too little oversight responsibility.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says an estimated 500 people in the United States die each year from listeria outbreaks, which also have resulted in some of the largest meat recalls in history.
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