US poultry processors eye parts performance standards

A surprisingly tough performance standard proposed by FSIS for Campylobacter in chicken parts concerns U.S. poultry processors.

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The U.S. poultry industry has submitted final comments on the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) proposed performance standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry parts, and the clock is ticking for the agency’s issuance of the final rule.

While U.S. poultry processors are expressing confidence in their ability to adjust to the final rules handed down by FSIS, and ultimately meet performance standards for Salmonella, poultry processors have concerns about a surprisingly low maximum acceptable level for Campylobacter in chicken parts.

Speaking at the Poultry Processor Workshop, the National Chicken Council’s (NCC) Dr. Ashley Peterson provided a broiler industry perspective of the proposed rulemaking, which moves USDA’s focus in performance standards away from whole poultry carcasses and to poultry parts.

One of the U.S. chicken industry’s chief concerns is the 7.7 percent maximum acceptable percent positive for Campylobacter in chicken parts, which is lower than for whole broiler carcasses. Normally, the level of a foodborne pathogen detected is higher in poultry parts and lower in carcasses. Not the other way around, as is the case in the proposed standard.

Peterson noted that the maximum acceptable percent positive for Campylobacter for broiler carcasses is 15.7 percent, which is twice the proposed level for chicken parts.

To put the proposed Campylobacter standard in perspective, the maximum acceptable percent positive for Salmonella for broiler carcasses is 9.8 percent, which is significantly lower than the 15.4 percent standard for chicken parts.

Peterson posed the question, “How did FSIS come up with the 7.7 percent standard for Campylobacter in chicken parts?” Indicating that FSIS is unlikely to change the maximum acceptable level for Campylobacter in chicken parts in the final rule, she added, “It is the Campylobacter number that has the industry really nervous.”

Only one in three plants expected to meet new standard

FSIS predicts that approximately 63 percent of processing establishments will not initially meet the performance standard for chicken parts.

The agency estimates that as establishments make changes to meet the new performance standard, the volume-weighted percent positive (VWPP) for Salmonella in chicken parts will be reduced from 28 percent in the 2012 baseline study to 18 percent. Similarly, FSIS estimates that the VWPP for Campylobacter in chicken parts will drop from 15.5 percent to 10 percent.

Proposed rules’ scope and application

NCC has also expressed concern over other issues in the proposed rule:

  • The performance standard for chicken parts should be focused on breasts, wings and legs, and not all chicken parts, and not further-processed parts.
  • Marinated parts were not included in the baseline so therefore should be exempt.
  • The agency’s proposal to use a moving window sampling scheme increases the likelihood of an establishment falling into Category 2 or 3 and being in a category for a year or longer.

In comments on the Proposed Performance Standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter, NCC proposed that the process control data of individual establishments be accepted by FSIS for an establishment to be re-categorized (Category 1, 2, 3) in a shorter timeframe.

The proposed rule is officially known as the Proposed Performance Standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in Not-Ready-to-Eat Comminuted Chicken and Turkey Products and Raw Chicken Parts and Related Agency Verification Procedures and Other Changes to Agency Sampling.

The Poultry Processor Workshop is sponsored by U.S. Poultry & Egg Association

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