New Salmonella, Campylobacter performance standards for poultry proposed

DrumsticksThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has proposed new federal standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products as well as raw chicken breasts, legs and wings. Development of these new standards is a major step inthe FSIS’s Salmonella Action Plan, launched in December 2013 to reduce Salmonella illnesses from meat and poultry products.

According to an article from Food Safety News, the USDA estimates that these new standards will prevent about 50,000 illnesses each year. The agency is also updating the existing standards for Salmonella in ground chicken and turkey to make them harder to meet.

“We are taking specific aim at making the poultry items that Americans most often purchase safer to eat,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, said in the article. “This is a meaningful, targeted step that could prevent tens of thousands of illnesses each year.”

The new Salmonella standards will require contamination rates of no more than 25% in ground turkey, 13.5% in ground turkey, and 15.4% in chicken parts. For comparison, the old Salmonella standards allowed for 44.6% contamination for ground chicken and 49.9% for ground turkey.

The new Campylobacter standards will require contamination rates of no more than 1.9% in ground chicken and turkey and 7.7 % in chicken parts. These changes were made to address the poultry products that are much more common than whole birds in consumer kitchens. The agency implemented performance standards for whole chickens in 1996 but has since learned that Salmonella levels increase as chicken is further processed into parts.

As stated in the article, FSIS says the new standards were designed to achieve at least a 30% reduction in illnesses from Salmonella and a 19-37% percent reduction in illnesses from Campylobacter for chicken parts and ground poultry.

“These new standards, as well as improved testing patterns, will have a major impact on public health,” Al Almanza, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, said in a press release. “The proposed changes are another way we’re working to meet the ever-changing food safety landscape and better protect Americans from foodborne illness.”

FSIS plans to use routine sampling throughout the year rather than infrequently sampling on consecutive days to assess whether establishments’ processes are effectively addressing Salmonella and Campylobacter on poultry carcasses and other products derived from these carcasses.

The agency considers the new standards “a major step” in its Salmonella Action Plan released in December 2013. Public comments will be accepted on these changes for 60 days, before FSIS announces final standards and its implementation date this spring.

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