- The USDA released a new proposed regulatory framework to reduce the presence of salmonella in poultry products.
- The new proposed guidelines from USDA include requiring incoming chicken flocks to be tested for the bacteria before entering a food facility; adding more requirements from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure slaughtering facilities are controlling salmonella bacteria; and implementing a final product standard in order to prevent contaminated products from being sold.
- About 23% of the roughly 1.35 million salmonella infections per year come from poultry products and the total annual cost for foodborne salmonella infections in the U.S. is $4.1 billion, according to data from USDA’s Economic Research Service. A new approach to handling the bacteria has the potential to drive down the number of people who fall ill each year.
Salmonella infections lead to 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths a year, according to CDC estimates, and experts have long advocated for a new framework to handle its spread in poultry products. The USDA announced plans for a new framework earlier this year, with the intention of coming closer to its goal of reducing salmonella-linked illnesses by 25%.
Under the agency’s proposed framework, establishments would be required to monitor salmonella levels in all incoming poultry flocks. However, there wouldn’t be just one process used to do this, and facilities could adopt practices that are most effective for their operations, USDA said.
“Focusing on levels of Salmonella and highly virulent strains of Salmonella rather than just the presence or absence of Salmonella should reduce the number of illnesses associated with poultry,” said University of Minnesota professor Dr. Craig Hedberg in USDA’s press release.
The third element of the proposed framework, ensuring a final product standard to prevent the sale of salmonella-infected poultry, could include vaccination requirements for flocks, USDA said.
Consumer advocacy groups supported the Biden administration’s announcement after years of work, but acknowledged that the proposal must be brought to
The Consumer Federation of America said in a statement that just two breeders supply the vast majority of poultry for meat companies, and requiring them to test birds could help to prevent outbreaks, so long as regulators actually implement strict requirements.
“If USDA settles on Salmonella product standards that do not challenge the industry to clean up its act, or that only apply to a narrow range of products, consumers will still get sick,” CFA Director of Food Policy Thomas Gremillion said.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest praised the proposal for implementing testing flocks for salmonella, as it could encourage greater food safety practices on farms before slaughter occurs. However, it said the agency should move quickly on implementing needed changes.
“While the proposed framework represents a welcome shift in thinking by the agency, many important details are yet to be worked out, and the need for these changes is urgent,” Sarah Sorscher, the group’s deputy director, said in a statement. “Under the agency’s proposal, rules implementing the framework would not be finalized until mid-2024, a long time to wait for the estimated one million Americans sickened each year by Salmonella illness.”
USDA will host a virtual public meeting on Nov. 3 to gather input on the proposed policy.