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10/20/2021

USDA Working to Reduce Salmonella Illnesses Linked to Poultry

Gov’t initiative will gather data to determine next steps
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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USDA Working to Reduce Salmonella Illnesses Linked to Poultry
More than 1 million consumer illnesses caused by Salmonella occur every year, with more than 23% of those cases because of chicken and turkey consumption.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is redoubling its efforts to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry products. To that end, the government agency is rolling out several key activities to gather the needed data and information to support further action and close in on the national target of a 25% reduction in such illnesses.

“Far too many consumers become ill every year from poultry contaminated by Salmonella,” noted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We need to be constantly evolving in our efforts to prevent foodborne illness to stay one step ahead of the bad bugs. [Now] we’re taking action to help prevent Salmonella contamination throughout the poultry supply chain and production system to protect public health.”

Despite consistent reductions in the occurrence of Salmonella in poultry, more than 1 million consumer illnesses caused by Salmonella occur every year, and it’s estimated that more than 23% of those cases are because of chicken and turkey consumption.

“Reducing Salmonella infections attributable to poultry is one of the department’s top priorities,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary Sandra Eskin, who is heading the initiative. “Time has shown that our current policies are not moving us closer to our public health goal. It’s time to rethink our approach.”

USDA plans to seek stakeholder feedback on specific Salmonella control and measurement strategies, among them pilot projects, in poultry slaughter and processing facilities. A major component of the initiative is the recommendation of preharvest controls to reduce Salmonella contamination coming into the slaughterhouse. The data yielded by these pilots will be used to determine whether a different approach could lead to a reduction of Salmonella illness among consumers. 

The initiative will make use of USDA’s research capabilities and bolster FSIS’ partnership with the Research, Education and Economics mission area to address data gaps and devise new laboratory methods to guide future Salmonella policy. At the same time, the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria in Foods, an independent federal advisory committee, will advise on how FSIS can build on the latest science to improve its approach to Salmonella control. The ongoing effort will involve collaboration and ongoing dialog with stakeholders across industry, consumer groups and researchers.

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