Don’t we want to control our own destiny? While that is indeed a very broad question, it has particular relevance when one considers the specific issue of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) prevalence in young chickens, and how it may relate to human foodborne illness. A majority of delegates to the 40th Biennial Conference of the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) appear to have answered that specific question in the affirmative when they recently voted to adopt the U.S. SE Monitored program for multiplier meat-type breeder chickens.

NPIP to administer SE monitoring  

U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) conceptualized this voluntary monitoring program, and then sought subject matter experts from member firms, the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP), Association of Veterinarians in Broiler Production (AVBP), National Chicken Council (NCC) and the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) to form the writing committee that developed it. This committee created the U.S. SE Monitored program to provide broiler producers in this country with a universal way to monitor their parent breeding flocks for SE.

The program’s goal is to determine the relative prevalence of SE in parent breeder flocks and establish a framework by which the broiler industry might subsequently begin to collectively address this potential food safety concern. While these same objectives might have also been accomplished through a purely industry-driven program, the NPIP was believed to be the best means by which to achieve those ends. It has more extensive stakeholder involvement and historically proven successes in managing programs with similar goals.

SE program calls for decision  

Broiler integrators should now consider whether or not they wish to voluntarily participate in the new NPIP U.S. SE Monitored program to begin to address the issue of SE in broilers.

The program was created in response to concerns about SE that the USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) began publically raising early last year. FSIS continues to express concern that while the overall prevalence of Salmonella spp. associated with broilers has been declining over the past several years, SE prevalence in young chickens and human illnesses caused by SE have been on the rise.

Don’t ignore FSIS comments  

USPOULTRY believes such comments by FSIS should not be ignored, as the absence of a meaningful industry response will likely prompt the Agency to implement regulatory policy to address the matter. And as a result of jurisdictional limitations, any FSIS-imposed mandate to address SE in broilers will be aimed at the level of the processing plant. This would not be wise, since the application of pressure at the end of a production process in an attempt to control an issue that is best addressed closer to the beginning of the process is usually limited in its effectiveness, and unlimited in its expense.

It is much too early in the investigation to attempt to provide definitive answers to the many questions surrounding the issue of SE in broilers. We must first know the relative prevalence of SE in U.S. meat-type parent breeding flocks and whether or not it is increasing. Only then can we determine the actions that would be necessary to effectively address such a situation. It will take time to learn these things, so we must get started now if we wish to have a say in the development of future policy.