New USDA Salmonella Policy Could Protect Food Supply

Advocate Andy

Sweeping change to poultry inspection is predicted to reduce foodborne illness

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is applauding an announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) relative to how it treats the presence of Salmonella in poultry inspections.

The change means the USDAs inspectors will now consider Salmonella an "adulterant" in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products. This has never been done before and will have broad implications for inspections and should reduce the amount of dangerous or potentially dangerous product that hits the market.

In a statement, CFA applauded the move.

“This announcement represents a sea change in how poultry is inspected in the United States,” said Thomas Gremillion, Director of Food Policy at Consumer Federation of America. “Rather than certifying a poultry processing establishment’s safety, FSIS will now certify the safety of each poultry product itself. And that’s what matters to consumers.”

The CFA noted significant safety concerns in the current environment. Specifically, breaded raw chicken products have been implicated in 14 outbreaks since 1998, in part because so many consumers misunderstand their cooking requirements. The bigger public health impacts from the FSIS policy change, however, will follow from rules that apply to the broader universe of raw chicken products.

These new policies will likely also include testing flocks of incoming birds before they are prepared for consumer consumption.

“Testing incoming birds is a critical element of a rational Salmonella control plan,” said Gremillion. “Salmonella is vertically transmitted. A single pedigree female chicken may have over three million offspring, and if that breeding hen is infected with a dangerous strain of Salmonella, it can spread throughout the food system and wreak havoc on public health.” 

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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