Despite a dip in the rate of foodborne illnesses in recent years, Salmonella rates have remained steady—proving that curbing the presence of this pesky pathogen remains difficult for the food industry. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has published revised guidelines to assist poultry processors in controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in raw food products.
“These guidelines take into account the latest science and practical considerations, including lessons learned from foodborne illness outbreaks in the last several years, to assist establishments in producing safer food,” says Al Almanza, USDA deputy under-secretary for food safety. “This new guide is one piece of FSIS’s Salmonella Action Plan and our effort to reduce Salmonella illnesses attributed to meat and poultry products by 25 percent to meet the nation’s Healthy People 2020 goals. By following the newer guidelines, poultry facilities can help us reach this important public health target.”
The updated document is the fourth edition of the “FSIS Compliance Guideline for Controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in Raw Poultry” and is intended to offer poultry companies best practices to minimize pathogen levels and meet FSIS’s food safety requirements.
The new guidelines provide science-based suggestions including sanitary dressing procedures, further processing practices, antimicrobial interventions and other management practices. These prevention and control measures represent the best practice recommendations of FSIS based on scientific and practical considerations. This guidance is particularly important in light of Salmonella outbreaks involving poultry products.
According to CDC, Salmonella is estimated to cause 1 million illnesses in the US each year. Of these cases, an average of 19,000 people need to be hospitalized, and 380 will die from the illness. In this year alone, there have been nine reported Salmonella outbreaks, three of which involved poultry.
The persistence of Salmonella rates despite the drops in other foodborne illnesses prompted FSIS to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing the pathogen in meat and poultry products. The revised guidance and the development of the new performance standards unveiled in January for chicken and turkey products are major steps in FSIS’s Salmonella Action Plan. FSIS estimates the implementation of the new performance standards will lead to preventing an average of 50,000 illnesses annually.
FSIS is seeking comments on the guidelines, which were last updated in 2010. A downloadable version of the compliance guidance is available here: www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/compliance-guides-index.
The guidelines are also posted and comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov. FSIS will accept comments 60 days from the date of the guidance being published in the Federal Register.