November 29, 2021

USDA to Reduce Salmonella Associated with Poultry

USDA to Reduce Salmonella Associated with Poultry 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced new strategies to reduce Salmonella illness linked to poultry products. The efforts will include gathering data and information to support future actions to move closer to the Healthy People 2030 target of a 25% reduction in Salmonella illness. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and USDA’s Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) published last month, an estimated 1 million Americans become ill with Salmonella illnesses annually. Of those infected, over 23% are due to consumption of chicken and turkey products. The new FSIS project will seek stakeholder feedback on specific Salmonella control and measurement strategies and includes pilot projects in poultry slaughter and processing facilities. 

“Far too many consumers become ill every year from poultry contaminated by Salmonella,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We need to be constantly evolving in our efforts to prevent foodborne illness to stay one step ahead of the bad bugs. Today we’re taking action to help prevent Salmonella contamination throughout the poultry supply chain and production system to protect public health.”

Before the program was announced, Sandra Eskin, the Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety and the top food safety official at USDA, told attendees at the Consumer Federation National Food Policy Conference that Salmonella reduction was her top priority. “We are looking for a comprehensive policy to bring down infections. Pre-harvest will be a big part of it,” she said. She also noted that while irradiation had not been discussed, there are many at USDA who support it. 

FSIS will work with the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria in Foods (NACMCF), a group offering impartial scientific expertise in developing integrated food safety systems, to determine how FSIS can build on the latest science to improve its approach to Salmonella control. FSIS will focus specifically on how quantification can be incorporated and the different Salmonella serotypes and virulence factors that pose the greatest risk to public health. 

The poultry industry supports the new efforts proposed by FSIS. The National Chicken Council (NCC) Senior Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Ashley Peterson, stated, “We support modernization, ongoing research, innovation, and technology development to better address the food safety challenges of today and tomorrow. NCC looks forward to a seat at the table as this framework is developed, and we will work to ensure that any decisions are based on sound science, robust data, and research and be proven to have a meaningful impact on human health.”