The US Department of Agriculture has said that as from 9 December, increased government food safety inspections will be carried out at meat plants that do not routinely test for listeria bacteria.

The new directive comes in response to the recent listeria outbreak in the northeastern US that caused 7 fatalities and over 40 cases of illness. The outbreak prompted massive recalls and forced the closure of two US meat plants, and the USDA wants to reduce the risk of a similar outbreak occurring in the future.

Any factories that produce read-to-eat meat products, and do not follow a government-approved listeria testing programme, will be subject to greater scrutiny. The directive will affect around 1,500 meat plants.