January 16, 2018

Senators: New Salmonella, Campylobacter Standards for Poultry Will Reduce Illnesses

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s  (USDA’s ) proposed new pathogen standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry pieces will reduce the number of foodborne illnesses reported each year, say Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

Salmonella BacteriaThe USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced yesterday the first ever proposed standards for Campylobacter and Salmonella on poultry parts and revised standards for ground poultry. The agency has implemented performance standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter on poultry sold whole since 1996, but has never had them for poultry sold in pieces such as breasts, wings and drumsticks or for Campylobacter in ground poultry.

Only 20 percent of poultry sold is whole.  So most of the poultry Americans buy, 80 percent of it, has never had a Salmonella or Campylobacter standard.

The proposed standards would require Salmonella contamination rates of no more than 15.4 percent and Campylobacter contamination rates of no more than 7.7 percent on poultry parts. For ground poultry, standards would require Campylobacter contamination rates of no more than 7.7 percent for ground chicken and no more than 1.9 percent for ground turkey; and Salmonella contamination rates of no more than 25 percent for ground chicken and no more than 13.5 percent for ground turkey. The current standards allow 44.6 percent Salmonella contamination for ground chicken and 49.9 percent for ground turkey.

Salmonella and Campylobacter sicken about 3 million Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So why would any percentage be allowed in poultry?

Salmonella and Campylobacter in raw poultry are not considered legal adulterants because raw poultry is not intended to be eaten raw or served rare. A court case underscores this argument.A consumer group is advocating to make a change, but until then standards are welcomed by all in food safety.

“American consumers should not have to worry about whether the food they eat will make them sick, which is why the new standards are a much-needed step forward. They will help save lives and prevent an estimated 50,000 foodborne illnesses annually,” said Senator Feinstein.

Her comments were echoed by Durbin and Gillibrand. “I am pleased to hear that the USDA is taking proactive steps to address the risk of foodborne illness by establishing new performance standards for poultry products, including poultry parts,” said Senator Durbin.

“These new pathogen standards and enhanced testing patterns are a significant step forward for food safety in America,” said Senator Gillibrand.

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