Once again, USDA has released proposed new meat-testing requirements issued in the final days of the Clinton presidency but put on hold immediately after the Bush administration took over.

The rules would require makers of hot dogs, cold cuts and other ready-to-eat meat products to test plant equipment regularly for Listeria monocytogenes and allow the government to inspect company records.

USDA is taking public comments on the rules for 90 days after they are published in the Federal Register. USDA also plans to hold public meetings to discuss the scientific issues behind the proposed regulations.

Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Consumer Federation of America's Food Policy Institute, called the rules ``important and long overdue.'

The American Meat Institute says USDA should have waited to release the rules until it finalized an assessment of the potential risks from listeria.

"If the government's final risk assessment suggests that any new regulatory actions should be taken, such as microbiological testing, then we believe such actions should be applied evenly across the ready-to-eat food industry,' said J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president.

For more information on the rules, check out USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service: http://www.fsis.usda.gov

Associated Press