Tougher US Poultry Meat Measures Could Spare 50,000 Illnesses

US – Tighter standards on poultry products will prevent 50,000 illnesses each year, predicts the US Department of Agriculture’s food inspection body.
calendar icon 22 January 2015
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The drop will come from anticipated actions to control Salmonella and Campylobacter in the poultry supply chain.

Proposals from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) yesterday announced federal changes, expected to be finalised in the spring, on raw chicken breasts, legs, wings and ground chicken and turkey products.

It will mean improved testing patterns, which deputy under-secretary for food safety, Al Almanza, said will have a “major impact” on public health.

This will mean routine sampling through the year, unlike the current infrequent sampling on consecutive days.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: "Today, we are taking specific aim at making the poultry items that Americans most often purchase safer to eat.

"This is a meaningful, targeted step that could prevent tens of thousands of illnesses each year."

Greater understanding of how salmonella levels increase as chickens are broken into parts now exists than when FSIS performance standards were introduced in 1996, said the USDA.

Federal targets are to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter by a minimum of 30 per cent and 19 per cent respectively from the relevant poultry products.

This is part of a pathogen reduction performance standard, which could reduce Campylobacter by 37 per cent.

A USDA statement said: “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.”

The move is part of a government Salmonella Action Plan, launched in December 2013, two months after a Salmonella scare at a major poultry company.

Federal veterinarian and director of the centre for disease control and prevention, Robert V. Tauxe MD, said: "Getting more germs out of the chicken and turkey we eat is an important step in protecting people from foodborne illness.

"I look forward to seeing fewer Americans get sick as a result of these proposed changes."

Responding to the propsosals, Foster Farms has reaffirmed its commitment to salmonella prevalence below five per cent in raw poultry parts.

The California based poultry company has said this is as USDA proposals look to set a 15.4 per cent standard.

Support was given to the USDA announcement by Foster Farms President and CEO Ron Foster.

He said it was a critical step to safety across the industry.

"Foster Farms has made a tremendous investment to ensure that our practices represent the very best in the industry.

“We stand by our commitment to lead the industry with Salmonella prevalence levels of less than 5 percent. We remain dedicated to continuous food safety advances."

The FSIS intends to evaluate comments for 60 days before announcing final standards and an implementation date.

Michael Priestley

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