USDA Announces new performance standards for salmonella and campylobacter

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced new performance standards to reduce salmonella and campylobacter in young chickens (broilers) and turkeys, fulfilling another recommendation of the President’s Food Safety Working Group.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service also released a compliance guide to help the poultry industry address salmonella and campylobacter and a compliance guide on known practices for pre-harvest management to reduce E. coli O157:H7 contamination in cattle.

Top priority

“There is no more important mission at USDA than ensuring the safety of our food, and we are working every day as part of the President’s Food Safety Working Group to lower the danger of foodborne illness,” said Vilsack. “The new standards announced today mark an important step in our efforts to protect consumers by further reducing the incidence of salmonella and opening a new front in the fight against campylobacter.”

After two years under the new standards, FSIS estimates 39,000 illnesses will be avoided each year, and 26,000 fewer illnesses each year under revised salmonella standards.

The new standards are the first-ever for campylobacter, and mark the first revision to salmonella standards for chicken since 1996 and for turkeys since the first standards were set in 2005.

The President’s Food Safety Working Group has set a goal of having 90 percent of all poultry establishments meeting the revised salmonella standard by the end of 2010.

Growing trend

The announcement builds on the series of steps to enhance food safety taken by USDA over the past year as part of the Food Safety Working Group, including: an initiative to cut down E. coli O157:H7 contamination, appointing a chief medical officer within USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to coordinate human health issues within USDA and FSIS, issuing consolidated, more effective field instructions on how to inspect for E. coli O157:H7 contamination, and continuing to develop the Public Health Information System to help the Agency more rapidly and accurately identify trends.

Recent studies

FSIS developed the stricter performance standards using recently completed studies that measure the baseline prevalence of salmonella and campylobacter in young chicken (broiler) and turkey carcasses nationwide. FSIS has developed the third edition of a compliance guide for poultry slaughter which includes recommendations for controlling salmonella and campylobacter, as well as a compliance guide on known practices for pre-harvest management to reduce E. coli O157:H7 contamination in cattle.

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