USA, Washington. The US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) has finalized federal standards that it estimates will prevent an average of 50,000 illnesses annually.
The standards are to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products, as well as in raw chicken breasts, legs, and wings.
FSIS uses pathogen reduction performance standards to assess the food safety performance of establishments that prepare meat and poultry products. The agency has updated its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and will post information online about individual companies' performance.
Al Almanza, USDA deputy under-secretary for food safety, said the approach to poultry inspection is based on science and supported by strong data. The leading cause of bacterial foodborne illness in the US is Salmonella. An estimated 1.2 mill. illnesses are thought to be caused every year by it, with 375,000 Salmonella illnesses attributed to FSIS-regulated products in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015.
For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is finalizing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 30% reduction in illnesses from Salmonella. For chicken parts and ground chicken, the standard is designed to achieve at least a 32% reduction in Campylobacter. Because the prevalence for Campylobacter in ground turkey is already low, the reduction for this product is estimated to be 19%, said the agency.
The standards were proposed in early 2015 and form part of the Salmonella Action Plan from 2013.
David Plunket, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) senior food safety attorney, said the performance standards should reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination on ground chicken and turkey as well as chicken parts.
Members of the Safe Food Coalition called on USDA to conduct a review of its microbial sampling methods to ensure that industry processing techniques do not hamper ability to detect Salmonella. They said any standard will only be as reliable as the testing to measure compliance. It urged the agency to address concerns that chemical interventions used by poultry plants may interfere with FSIS’ detection of pathogens.
Safe Food Coalition members include the Center for Foodborne Illness, Research and Prevention, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch and STOP Foodborne Illness.