The new standards are targeted at reducingSalmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products – both of which have been problematic – plus breasts, legs and those ever-popular wings.
Under the new rules, no more than 15.4% of chicken parts like breasts and wings can test positive forsalmonella and no more than 7.7% can test positive forcampylobacter at poultry facilities.
By updating its inspection schedule, testing at points closer to the final product and strengthening pathogen reduction performance standards, FSIS seeks to achieve at least a 30 percent reduction in Salmonellarelated illnesses linked to chicken parts, ground chicken and ground turkey. For ground turkey, the maximums are 13.5% for salmonella and 1.9% forcampylobacter.
“These new standards, in combination with greater transparency about poultry companies’ food safety performance and better testing procedures, will help prevent tens of thousands of food-borne illnesses every year”, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
The statement from Congresswoman DeLauro reads, in part, “while the new federal standardsannounced by the USDA are progress in fighting foodborne illness, implementing these standards alone is not enough to keep American consumers safe”. They also toughen requirements for ground chicken…
The USDA has had success in cutting the proportion of whole chickens found with salmonella. Previously, there were no federal standards for pathogens in chicken parts or for Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey.
Even when companies wash chicken carcasses after slaughter, the USDA has found the bacteria on about a quarter of all cut-up chicken parts heading for supermarket shelves. Alfred Almanza, the USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food safety, was of the view that after a year of testing, the USDA will start posing the test results from every poultries.
William James, the former chief veterinarian for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said that the USDA’s entire formula to control salmonella is wrong.
The problem, he says, is that these USDA standards treat all salmonella alike, when there actually are more than 2,000 different genetic strains of the bacterium, and majority don’t make people sick. They are critical of the standards since they do not declare Salmonella as an adulterant. “The key here is probably to focus on those few types that are causing illness, and get serious about trying to eliminate those”, he says.
Cameron Harsh, a spokesman with the Center for Food Safety who supports the new standards, said there is always room for food safety improvements throughout the supply chain. Whole chicken carcases have been tested for possible foodborne contamination since 1996 in the US. She pointed to USDA estimates attributing 360,000 illnesses to products already subject to the department’s regulations, “and while this rule reduces those numbers, we should not be satisfied until we bring these preventable illnesses down to zero”.