The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has proposed new rules poised to prevent poultry-induced consumer infection from salmonella. The framework, announced on October 14, presents a new strategy to reduce the 1.35 million infections and 26,500 hospitalizations that salmonella bacteria causes per year in the country.
Salmonella infection—of which 23 percent can be attributed to consuming bacteria-ridden poultry—is caused by bacteria that settle in the intestine, causing food-poisoning symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea.
According to USDA data, salmonella infections cost the United States more than $4 billion annually and cause an $88-million loss in the productivity of laborers per year.
In hopes of lowering the high cost and prominence of the bacteria, the USDA—with help from scientists, stakeholders and researchers—has hatched a plan that hinges on three main components to mitigate the spread of infections, specifically targeting the bacteria introduced to consumers through poultry.
The first component, according to the press release, is “requiring that incoming flocks be tested for Salmonella before entering an establishment.” Second, the department will focus on “enhancing establishment process control monitoring and FSIS verification,” meaning higher levels of monitoring in facilities and more frequent check-ins by the department. Finally, the third measure would involve implementing an enforceable final product standard.
As of now, the framework is just a proposed first step, with no set implementation date, meaning the strategy is currently simply under consideration. However, the acknowledgment surrounding the issue of salmonella and linking it so publicly and heavily to the poultry industry is a historic launching point for the USDA.
Amanda Craten, a board member of STOP Foodborne Illness, said, “This is a historic first step toward final product standards that are science-based, risk-based, enforceable and effective at protecting our vulnerable loved ones.”
In the press release, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Sandra Eskin acknowledged the complicated nature of the issue. “We know that Salmonella in poultry is a complex problem with no single solution,” she said. “However, we have identified a series of strategic actions FSIS could take that are likely to drive down Salmonella infections linked to poultry products consumption, and we are presenting those in this proposed framework.”
The USDA is now in the process of taking feedback on the potential protocols from stakeholders, both in the form of public meetings and write-in comments.