USDA Finalizes New Food Safety Measures to Reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in Poultry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced its new federal standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry products, as well as in raw chicken breasts, legs, and wings.

Chicken and turkey items are frequently purchased by American. In a bid to make these items safer to eat, FSIS has updated its microbial testing schedule as poultry facilities and will soon begin posting more information online about individual companies’ food safety performance. FSIS estimates that implementation of these standards will lead to an average of 50,000 prevented illnesses annually.

USDA has put in place tighter and more strategic food safety measures. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated, “We have made strides in modernizing every aspect of food safety inspection, from company record keeping, to labeling requirements, to the way we perform testing in our labs.” “These new standards, in combination with greater transparency about poultry companies’ food safety performance and better testing procedures, will help prevent tens of thousands of foodborne illnesses every year, reaching our Healthy People 2020 goals.”

Poultry parts like breasts, wings and others represent 80 percent of the chicken available for Americans to purchase. By creating a standard for chicken parts, and by performing regulatory testing at a point closer to  the final product, FSIS can greatly reduce consumer exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Once these standards were brought to the fore in early 2015, FSIS began to use routine sampling throughout the year. Once a full set of tests are done on establishments with the new standards, the agency will begin posting online which facilities pass, meet or fail the standards.

Over the past six years, USDA has collaborated extensively with other federal partners to safeguard America’s food supply, prevent foodborne illnesses and improve consumers’ knowledge about the food they eat. USDA’s FSIS is working to strengthen federal food safety efforts and develop strategies that emphasize a three-dimensional approach to prevent foodborne illness: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery.

Some of the other steps taken to improve the safety of meat and poultry include adopting a zero-tolerance policy for raw beef products containing six additional strains of shiga-toxin producing E. coli; ensuring that beef products that have been mechanically tenderized are labeled as such and include validated cooking instructions; implementing a new “test and hold” policy in 2012, which significantly reduces consumer exposure to unsafe meat products; and working closely with FDA and CDC to collectively form the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC), which focuses on projects related to foodborne illness source attribution and will try to improve the classification of foods implicated in foodborne disease outbreaks.

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