USDA releases proposed regulatory framework to reduce salmonella infections

Agency seeks comments on framework at public meeting
calendar icon 18 October 2022
clock icon 3 minute read

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released last week a proposed regulatory framework for a new strategy to control Salmonella contamination in poultry products and reduce foodborne illnesses attributed to these products. The agency is hosting a virtual public meeting on November 3, 2022, to seek input from stakeholders on the proposed framework.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Salmonella bacteria cause approximately 1.35 million human infections and 26,500 hospitalizations in the United States every year. Of those infections, over 23% are attributed to poultry consumption. Foodborne illness can have a devastating impact, both personally and financially, on people’s lives, the cost of which reverberates through the economy. Data from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) show the total cost for foodborne Salmonella infections in the United States is a staggering $4.1 billion annually and the cost for the loss of productivity to the economy is $88 million. These are real costs to real people that can and should be prevented.

“We know that Salmonella in poultry is a complex problem with no single solution,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary Sandra Eskin. “However, we have identified a series of strategic actions FSIS could take that are likely to drive down Salmonella infections linked to poultry products consumption, and we are presenting those in this proposed framework.”

“This is a historic first step toward final product standards that are science-based, risk-based, enforceable, and effective at protecting our vulnerable loved ones,” said Amanda Craten, board member of STOP Foodborne Illness. “As a parent of a child who suffered from Salmonella illness and is left with permanent injury, I have advocated and engaged in the process to modernize poultry standards to ensure no child has to experience the devastation of a preventable, virulent Salmonella illness. I’m thankful that USDA is making the prevention of illnesses like my son Noah’s a priority.”

The proposed framework has been shaped by months of information-gathering and discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, researchers, and scientists. The proposed framework consists of three key components that, together, support a comprehensive approach to controlling Salmonella in poultry.

  • Requiring that incoming flocks be tested for Salmonella before entering an establishment;
  • Enhancing establishment process control monitoring and FSIS verification; and
  • Implementing an enforceable final product standard.

The framework under consideration also addresses cross-cutting issues of testing for Salmonella, the impact on small and very small establishments and data sharing.

Craig Hedberg, a professor at University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Co-Director of the Minnesota Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence, agrees that this framework is an important step towards moving away from hazard-based regulation toward risk-based regulation. "Focusing on levels of Salmonella and highly virulent strains of Salmonella rather than just the presence or absence of Salmonella should reduce the number of illnesses associated with poultry," he said.

“In alignment with our strong commitment to food safety, Cargill supports the need to develop a public health risked based approach to assist in meeting the Healthy People 2030 Salmonella targets," said Angie Siemens, vice president for Food Safety, Quality and Regulatory at Cargill. "We look forward to reviewing the FSIS Salmonella framework and engaging in a robust dialogue on this issue.”

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