USDA proposes sweeping changes to poultry to combat salmonella infections
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Friday proposed sweeping changes to how poultry must be handled to reduce the slew of salmonella infections linked to these products.
The new proposed framework, which officials say has been “shaped by months of information gathering and discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, researchers and scientists”, could mean meat companies will have to make significant changes to their operations.
FSIS, a public health agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), works to ensure that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe and properly labeled. However, despite years of trying to reduce salmonella contamination in poultry products, the agency says its current approach “has not resulted in an appreciable reduction” in infections.
More than one million people in the U.S. get sick each year, and more than 23 percent of those illnesses are attributed to eating chicken and turkey, according to a recent report by the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration.
As part of its plan to address the problem, the agency proposed testing arriving flocks of chickens and turkeys for the bacterial disease, which usually affects the intestinal tract and affects 1.3 million people a year with symptoms that can include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. which may last several days.
Officials hope that testing chickens and turkeys before they enter the slaughterhouse will encourage farmers to adopt practices that reduce bacterial infection on the birds before they reach the point of meat processing.
Another measure of the framework will include enhanced monitoring for salmonella during processing by adopting sampling for the bacteria at multiple stages in the processing facility.
The third major change would be to establish a maximum allowable level of bacterial contamination and possibly limit the three specific types of salmonella that can make people sick. Meat that would exceed the limits or that would contain the prohibited species of salmonella could be withheld from the market.
“We know there is no single solution to a complex problem like salmonella contamination in poultry, so we need a comprehensive strategy with components that work together to reduce human illness,” FSIS said.
The agency will hold a public hearing Nov. 3 to get input from the poultry industry and others. The goal is to begin rulemaking in 2023 and finalize all rules by mid-2024, according to the agency.