FSIS Announces Initiative to Reduce Salmonella in Meat and Poultry

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced a comprehensive initiative to reduce the presence of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products.
calendar icon 25 February 2006
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"Our goal is to work proactively to reduce the presence of Salmonella on raw products before plants develop a pattern of poor performance," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond. "FSIS will more quickly report testing results and target establishments needing improvement, providing timely information to both consumers and industry."

The initiative will include concentrating resources at establishments with higher levels of Salmonella and changes the reporting and utilization of FSIS Salmonella verification test results. The effort is patterned after the highly successful FSIS initiative to reduce the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef. The FSIS E. coli O157:H7 initiative led to a 40 percent reduction in human illnesses associated with the pathogen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Central to the E. coli O157:H7 model's success was a collective acknowledgement by industry that this food safety hazard needed to be addressed in all their food safety systems.

Certain serotypes of Salmonella, which are known to cause human illness, are commonly found in raw meat and poultry. Other food sources, such as produce and eggs, are also known to cause salmonellosis.

Where FSIS has performed Food Safety Assessments (FSAs) in establishments that have persistently poor performance records for controlling Salmonella, there has been a dramatic reduction in the levels of Salmonella. These results have clearly demonstrated that establishments can indeed control the incidence of Salmonella in the raw products they produce. FSAs are comprehensive, systematic evaluations of a firm's food safety system performed by Enforcement, Investigation and Analysis Officers (EIAOs).

The Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (PR/HACCP) rule, implemented July 25, 1996, established Salmonella performance standards for the first time in seven categories of raw meat and poultry products: broilers; market hogs; cows/bulls; steers/heifers; ground beef; ground chicken; and ground turkey. FSIS collects and analyzes Salmonella samples as one part of an extensive science-based food safety verification system and publishes the data annually in aggregate form.

Since 2002, FSIS has seen an increase in Salmonella positive samples in broilers. Although the overall percentage of positive samples in verification testing of broilers is still below national baseline prevalence figures, the recent upward trend is of concern to the Agency.

According to the strategy, which is described in a Federal Register notice (PDF Only) to be published February 27, FSIS will now provide the results of its Salmonella performance standard testing to establishments as soon as they become available on a sample-by-sample basis. This will enable establishments to more readily identify and respond to needed process control in the slaughter-dressing operation. Receiving individual sample results soon after the samples are taken will help establishments in their assessment of whether their slaughter dressing procedures are adequate for pathogen reduction.

Currently, establishments receive results after the sample set is completed (for broilers a sample set consists of 51 consecutive days of sampling). FSIS will also begin quarterly posting on its Web site of the nationwide aggregate results of all sample results to give consumers more complete and timely information about Salmonella trends. The postings will provide consumers with meaningful information about overall industry performance in protecting public health.

FSIS will also plan to more quickly have the serotype of Salmonella found in positive samples determined in order to notify the establishment and monitor and investigate illness outbreaks in coordination with federal, state and local public health agencies. These results also could provide useful information about trends in the presence of serotypes of Salmonella in order to prevent outbreaks.

In August, FSIS held a public meeting to hear presentations on advances in pre-harvest reduction of Salmonella in poultry. The comprehensive Salmonella initiative will be presented and discussed during a meeting on post-harvest Salmonella reduction strategies in poultry February 23-24, in Atlanta, Ga.

Source: - Food Safety and Inspection Service - 23rd February 2006

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