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USDA declares Salmonella to be an adulterant in some chicken products



USDA declares Salmonella to be an adulterant in some chicken products

As of today, the USDA considers Salmonella an adulterant in raw, breaded, stuffed chicken products, making them illegal to sell if contaminated with the pathogen.

The decision took almost two years. In August 2022, the deputy undersecretary for food safety for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said this move would be a first step in cleaning up America’s chicken.

“It’s an important step because for the first time we have declared Salmonella to be an adulteration,” FSIS Deputy Undersecretary Sandra Eskin told Food Safety News in 2022. “But we don’t stop there. We are developing a comprehensive strategy.”

That strategy will ultimately cover all chickens in the United States under FSIS jurisdiction. The proposed controls on raw breaded and stuffed chicken are expected to lead to Salmonella controls for most chicken products as they enter the domain of slaughterhouses. Until then, the USDA has no jurisdiction over poultry production.

“This final determination is part of FSIS’ broader efforts to reduce the burden Salmonella diseases associated with the supply of raw poultry in the United States. FSIS plans to address Salmonella contamination in other raw poultry products later this year,” according to an FSIS announcement.

The FSIS began its Salmonella efforts with raw, breaded, stuffed chicken products because such products are often brown and give the appearance of being cooked. As a result, consumers have become confused about minimum cooking times and temperatures. Inadequate cooking keeps Salmonella alive and can cause serious illness.

The FSIS and its public health partners investigated 14 Salmonellaoutbreaks and approximately 200 illnesses linked to these products since 1998. The most recent outbreak occurred in 2021 and resulted in illnesses in 11 states. These products account for less than 0.15 percent of the total domestic chicken supply, but outbreaks associated with these products represented approximately 5 percent of all chicken-related outbreaks in the U.S. from 1998 to 2020.

“This final determination marks the first time that Salmonella has been declared adulterated in a class of raw poultry products. This policy change is important because it will allow us to stop sales of these products when we detect levels of Salmonella contamination that could make people sick,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in the announcement about the new regulation.

The announcement did not include information about fines for companies that do not comply with the Salmonella declaration.

There have been public calls for years for the USDA to take action against Salmonella in chicken and chicken products.

Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler and a group of individuals and consumer advocates have been asking since 2020 that FSIS declare 31 Salmonella serotypes on chicken as adulterants, making it illegal to sell chicken contaminated with it. The groups that signed the petition were Rick Schiller, Steven Romes, the Porter Family, Food & Water Watch, the Consumer Federation of America and Consumer Reports.

Marler says declaring Salmonella as an adulterant for some chicken products is a good first step, but there is still a long way to go.

“If FSIS believes the industry can reduce Salmonella in these products (raw, breaded stuffed chicken), then they can do the same for other products,” Marler said. “I hope the industry does not file a lawsuit and realizes that protecting the public will also protect the business community.”

The industry’s concerns have been taken into consideration by the government. In 2022, Eskin said, “We can’t go any faster because we need to consult and work with everyone from consumers to industry.”

The verification process for the new regulation includes verification procedures including sampling and testing of the raw incoming chicken component of the products prior to stuffing and breading. If the chicken component in these products does not meet the standard, the product lot represented by the sampled component should not be used for the production of the final raw breaded stuffed chicken products. The provision, including FSIS sampling and verification testing, will become effective 12 months after its publication in the federal register.

“In determining that Salmonella is an adulterant in raw breaded, stuffed chicken products, FSIS considered the best available science and data using criteria similar to those in the 1994, 1999 and 2011 E. coli policies,” said the USDA announcement.

“When FSIS declared seven Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains as adulterants in select raw beef products, it relied on several factors, including available information on serotypes associated with human disease, the infectious dose, the severity of the diseases and typical consumer characteristics. preparation practices associated with a product. The determination of breaded stuffed chicken products was based on the same factors.”

Visit the FSIS to view the final determination Federal Register Rules web page.

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