Food policy: Trade group questions proposed S...
Food policy

Trade group questions proposed Salmonella regulations

Imago / Newscast
According to the National Chicken Council, public health officials have investigated eleven outbreaks associated with breaded and stuffed raw chicken products since 1998. Prior to one 2021 outbreak, the last multistate outbreak of not ready-to-eat stuffed chicken products was in 2015.
According to the National Chicken Council, public health officials have investigated eleven outbreaks associated with breaded and stuffed raw chicken products since 1998. Prior to one 2021 outbreak, the last multistate outbreak of not ready-to-eat stuffed chicken products was in 2015.

USA, Washington. US poultry trade group, the National Chicken Council, criticised the USDA’s announcement to declare Salmonella an adulterant in raw poultry products and voiced concerns about the impact on the poultry industry.

After the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection and Service (FSIS) announced proposed new regulations for breaded and stuffed raw chicken products, the National Chicken Council (NCC) voiced its concern.


By declaring Salmonella as an adulterant, the stricter regulations could negatively impact the industry and “take safe food off shelves”, the trade group criticised.

According to the FSIS press release, continual efforts to improve product labelling had not been effective at reducing consumer illnesses, with up to 14 outbreaks and approximately 200 illnesses since 1998. The breaded and stuffed raw chicken products appeared cooked while only being heat-treated to set the batter or breading, the agency explained.

The product still contained raw poultry and should be considered adulterated after exceeding a very low level of Salmonella contamination. Hence, it would be subject to regulatory action, the agency declared.

Questionable approach

After the announcement, the NCC questioned if the decision was science-based and data-driven. “NCC is concerned about the precedent set by this abrupt shift in longstanding policy, made without supporting data, for a product category that has only been associated with one outbreak since 2015. It has the potential to shutter processing plants, cost jobs, and take safe food and convenient products off shelves,” said the organisation in a public statement.

The mere presence of Salmonella did not render raw poultry adulterated, and FSIS possessed the regulatory and public health tools to ensure the continued safety of these products, the NCC claimed and added that “We’ve been asking the agency for years to collaborate on these efforts, including two petitions for stricter regulations, requests that have gone largely ignored.”

“There is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all approach to food safety, which is why we employ a multi-stage strategy. The only way to ensure our food is safe 100 per cent of the time is by following science-based procedures when raising and processing chicken, and by handling and cooking it properly at home,” the trade group emphasised.

Consumer at fault

The NCC pointed out that “chicken processors take a number of steps to reduce and control Salmonella during processing, and final customary consumer cooking to an internal temperature of 165°F destroys any Salmonella that may remain. FSIS has never, since the Poultry Products Inspection Act was passed in 1957, taken the view that the mere presence of Salmonella on raw poultry renders the product adulterated.”

After the latest outbreak in 2021, the investigation found out that some consumers reportedly did not cook the stuffed chicken products using a validated process (oven), as described on the product label, to ensure that the product was thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Instead, the NCC stated that some consumers reported using a microwave or air fryer.

The trade group repeated its call for mandatory and stricter labelling “to help consumers better understand the proper cooking procedures.” Earlier petitions did not render a response by FSIS.

Source: National Chicken Council / US Department of Agriculture
tags:
poultry NCC USA

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