US public supports stronger poultry safety standards - poll

Those negatively affected by foodborne illness urge action
calendar icon 28 January 2022
clock icon 3 minute read

The voting public says it's time to strengthen food safety regulations to protect consumers, according to a Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP) poll.

This poll comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its intent to strengthen poultry Salmonellastandards.

Salmonella is a top cause of foodborne illness in the United States. Chicken and turkey are major contributors to Salmonella illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Current USDA rules have failed to reduce Salmonella illness rates from previous decades. Salmonella standards haven't been meaningfully updated for over 25 years, even though scientific knowledge to prevent Salmonella illnesses has advanced. Current regulations do not effectively target the riskiest Salmonella found in poultry, nor do they optimize proven tools to prevent and control the bacteria likeliest to make people sick.

STOP CEO Mitzi Baum says, "Current USDA standards are scientifically outdated and not enforceable. Poultry contaminated with Salmonella in violation of USDA's current 'performance standards' can still be sold with USDA's 'mark of inspection.'"

This national poll, sampling one thousand diverse registered voters, asked if the USDA should impose stricter regulations on poultry production to reduce Salmonella and other illnesses. Key findings include:

  • High awareness of the problem – 87% of voters know about Salmonella poisoning and illnesses related to contaminated poultry.
  • Very broad, bipartisan support for stricter standards – 86% of voters favor stricter standards – 89% of Democrats, 84% of Independents, and 84% of Republicans.
  • Equally broad support for enforceable standards – 86% supporting prohibiting sale of products failing to meet safety standards – 88% of Democrats, 82% of Independents, and 86% of Republicans.

"Consumers want to trust that the food they eat is safe," adds Baum. "We applaud USDA Secretary Vilsack for initiating this reform process. Leadership now needs to be courageous, focusing on real action that significantly reduces Salmonella illnesses and deaths."

"Action can't wait," urges STOP board member Amanda Craten. In 2013, Craten's 18-month-old son Noah was one of the youngest victims of the multi-state Foster Farms Salmonella outbreak. The disease seeded in his brain. A life-saving craniotomy removed large abscesses that would have killed him. His family has since spent years providing intensive therapy for his post-illness issues, including sensory motor deficits and learning, language, and cognitive disorders. He still struggles at age nine.

"The USDA must act now to enact enforceable standards to prevent these illnesses and deaths," says Craten.

About Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP): STOP is a 28-year-old non-profit collaborating with survivors and victims' families to advocate for and support best practices and continuous improvement in food safety. In addition to constituent support and policy advocacy, STOP facilitates collaboration between illness survivors and food companies to bring these personal experiences into company trainings and food safety culture programs.

Melanie Epp

Melanie Epp is a freelance agricultural journalist from Ontario, Canada.

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