USDA targets poultry industry in effort to reduce Salmonella risks
Despite consistent reductions in the occurrence of Salmonella in poultry products, more than 1 million consumer illnesses due to Salmonella occur annually in the US, and it is estimated that over 23% of those illnesses are due to consumption of chicken and turkey.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has now launched a new effort to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry products by 25%.
“Far too many consumers become ill every year from poultry contaminated by Salmonella,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We need to be constantly evolving in our efforts to prevent foodborne illness to stay one step ahead of the bad bugs.”
Vilsack said the USDA was taking action to help prevent Salmonella contamination throughout the poultry supply chain and production system to protect public health.
The process will begin with stakeholder feedback on specific Salmonella control and measurement strategies, including pilot projects, in poultry slaughter and processing establishments. A key component of this approach is encouraging preharvest controls to reduce Salmonella contamination coming into the slaughterhouse. The data generated from these pilots will be used to determine if a different approach could result in a reduction of Salmonella illness in consumers.
As it is not just the presence or absence of Salmonella, but the quantity of bacteria that can impact the likelihood of illness, FSIS will also examine how quantification can be incorporated into this approach. Moreover, with emerging science suggesting that not all Salmonella are equally likely to cause human illness, FSIS will focus on the Salmonella serotypes and the virulence factors that pose the greatest public health risk.
Moving forward, this initiative will require collaboration and ongoing dialogue with stakeholders — industry, consumer groups and researchers alike.
Members of the newly formed group Coalition for Poultry Safety Reform, which comprises individuals from the poultry industry and various organisations such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, welcome the announcement of this USDA initiative.
Throughout this reform process, the coalition will be advocating for comprehensive reform that fully upgrades the current regulatory system to protect public health. Specifically, members of the coalition believe:
- The current system for regulating poultry safety is broken.
- To achieve better results, USDA must transform and strengthen its standards.
- Food safety should extend from farm to fork.
- USDA must address both Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry.
- Regulatory reform should be paired with investment in research.
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