The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced revised and new performance standards, going into effect in July, aimed at reducing the prevalence of salmonella and campylobacter in young chickens and turkeys.
In the most recently published USDA reports, for the third quarter of 2010, an average of 7.4% of chicken carcasses at processing plants nationwide tested positive for detectable levels of salmonella. The new USDA performance standard is 7.5%. The FSIS notice also adopts a campylobacter standard for the first time: no more than 10.4% of raw chickens sampled should have Campylobacter jejuni, C. lari and/or C. coli on them.
“These improved standards are a stronger buffer between foodborne illnesses and our consumers, especially our most vulnerable consumers — children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “There is no more important mission at the USDA than ensuring the safety of our food, and we are working every day to lower the danger of foodborne illness. 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.”
The National Chicken Council has said that the industry will continue its "tremendous efforts" to meet the challenge of food safety. “The industry has already done an outstanding job of improving the microbiological profile of raw products and will strive to do even better,” said Dr. Scott M. Russell, a microbiologist and professor of poultry processing at the University of Georgia and science advisor to the NCC. “I personally have witnessed and been part of the tremendous efforts the industry has made to meet the challenge of ensuring food safety, and I know these efforts will continue.”