New federal testing standards have been proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for poultry producers, with the intention of reducing the number of cases of Salmonella and campylobacter that are found in raw chicken parts, such as breasts and wings, as well as ground turkey and chicken products.
These new testing measures, which were released Jan. 21 and are expected to be finalized next spring, are an integral part of the FSIS’ Salmonella Action Plan, which was initiated in December 2013. The overall goal of the initiative is to make all poultry products safer to eat. According to Secretary of Agriculture Tim Vilsack, the agency estimates that as many as 50,000 illnesses every year could be prevented with these new standards.
The new rules raise performance standards for poultry plants, increase standards for ground poultry products and establish standards for individual chicken parts. This is a first; while the FSIS instituted standards for whole chickens back nearly 20 years ago, in intervening years that Salmonella contamination can increase as chickens are split into individual parts. Since more than 80 percent of the chicken market has to do with parts, they felt doing more testing after the chicken was split was a good way to reduce the number of infections. They are also instituting campylobacter standards for ground chicken and turkey.
FSIS inspectors will begin testing these standards in March. Once implemented, their plan is to conduct yearlong routine sampling, rather than the current practice, which is to occasionally sample on consecutive days, to determine whether or not poultry processors are working hard enough to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter.
Overall, the FSIS hopes to reduce incidents of Salmonella contamination by at least 30 percent, and to reduce Campylobacter contamination by at least 19 percent, although they’re cautiously optimistic that they can double that reduction. This would be a good start. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Salmonella infections alone sicken more than 1 million people every year, with at least 200,000 of those illnesses directly attributable to poultry.
It is a good thing federal regulators are trying to do more to reduce the number of foodborne illnesses nationwide, but even a reduction of 50,000 illnesses is just a drop in the bucket. If you or a loved one has become sick after eating any food product, see a doctor immediately, If you are stricken with Salmonella, campylobacter or any other foodborne illness, please contact the Texas Food Poisoning Injury Lawyers at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible, so that we can protect your rights.