The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently issued a notice for inspection personnel on determining whether or not ground poultry, including mechanically separated poultry, produced at a federally inspected plant should be sampled for Salmonella. The agency is currently conducting another baseline for Salmonella in ground poultry products and is including mechanically separated chicken and turkey in the baseline for the first time.

For a plant’s ground product to be excluded from Salmonella sampling, the facility must either process all of its ground product into ready-to-eat products or sell the ground products to federally inspected plants that process all of the product into ready-to-eat products. According to the notice, a facility must be able to present to inspection personnel adequate documentation that the ground product is being converted by another facility into ready-to-eat forms.

According to the notice, acceptable means of verification could include maintenance of records showing that the official establishment receiving the raw product processes all of the product into ready-to-eat product, such as a copy of HACCP records showing the product meets a lethality critical control point matched with bills of lading with corresponding production codes. The establishment receives letters of guarantee showing that all product from a particular product class is further processed into ready-to-eat product and maintains on-going communication with the receiving establishment to verify that all its product is being processed as ready-to-eat. The establishment has a contractual agreement with the receiving establishment so the producing establishment has knowledge of the receiving establishment’s production process.

The notice states that labeling the raw product with the statement “for further processing” is not an acceptable verification that products so labeled will not be sold to consumers in ready-to-cook form. Another insufficient means of documentation cited in the notice would be if the establishment only maintains a letter from the receiving establishment that says it only produces ready-to-eat products, without the receiving establishment gathering additional information to verify that all of the product is processed into ready-to-eat product in an official establishment.

Based on this notice, plants producing mechanically separated poultry produced for export, for food service outlets or for non-federally inspected plants will have ground products sampled for Salmonella.