October 21, 2021

USDA Hatches Plan to Reduce Illnesses From Salmonella

How do you tackle a public health problem that sickens 1.3 million people every year?  In a brilliant flash of sanity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) has decided to abandon its decades-long “Buyer Beware” Salmonella strategy and made a new plan.  A Salmonella Action Plan.

Petri DishAt the top of the list is “modernizing the outdated poultry slaughter inspection system,”  which FSIS estimates will result in a reduction of at least 4,286 cases of salmonellosis each year. Also included in the plan: developing new performance and sampling standards, and creating enforcement strategies that link sanitary dressing problems to Salmonella issues.

“This plan is a step in the right direction, but a more straightforward approach would be to declare Salmonella an adulterant,” said food safety attorney Fred Pritzker, publisher of Food Poisoning Bulletin. Because the USDA does not consider Salmonella an adulterant, contaminated raw poultry and meat products can be legally sold to retailers and consumers. Even poultry and meat that is contaminated with enough pathogenic bacteria that it can cause human illness. That issue that was highlighted when chicken produced by Foster Farms was identified as the source of a Salmonella outbreak twice this year and the company did not issue a recall.

At least 523 people have been sickened in the two Foster Farms Salmonella outbreaks announced this year. The current outbreak includes cases from 23 states. The six outbreak strains, several of which are resistant to multiple drugs, are causing illness that is more severe than is typically reported from Salmonella. The hospitalization rate is twice the average,  and patients have developed the life-threatening complication of the bacterial infection entering the bloodstream at three times the average rate.

Of the 1.3 million Americans sickened by Salmonella each year, about 15,000 are hospitalized and about 4,000 die. Salmonella infections can also trigger long-term health conditions such as reactive arthritis, inflammation of the heart, spine, tendons and eye membranes; high blood pressure; and reactive arthritis. Direct medical costs associated with the treatment of Salmonella food poisoning total about $1 million each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).




  1. This is totally crazy that products that are known to be contaminated with salmonella can be legally sold. What is the USDA thinking? My only guess it that products will have salmonella in them no matter what, and the only way to produce safe foods is to cook it properly and pay attention to holding times. I remember Foster Farms telling consumers “It is your fault. You did not cook it properly. The only way to cook it properly is to take it’s temperature.”

    • Linda Larsen says

      I completely agree. Unfortunately, consumers must treat raw meat and eggs (and flour) as ticking time bombs. The problem with putting the onus on consumers for handling contaminated food is that the tiniest slip or mistake can result in someone getting sick. Just one drop of liquid from a contaminated chicken can make everyone in a family sick.

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