Poultry Plants with Salmonella Problems Identified

Last month, The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would publish the names of poultry and meat plants having trouble controlling <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/salmonella">Salmonella. As expected, the USDA began publishing the names of broiler chicken plants last week listing 21 facilities where over 10% of samples were contaminated. Two plants actually failed to meet the USDA’s standard for Salmonella in chicken, which is no more than 20% of samples contaminated. At the other 19 plants, between 10% and 20% of samples had Salmonella, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The USDA said this move is the result of a Salmonella-control initiative it launched two years ago after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Salmonella had become the most prevalent food borne pathogen, accounting for 38.6% of all cases. The initiative concentrates resources at establishments with higher levels of Salmonella. In the “risk-based” sampling program, poultry and meat plants are sorted by the FSIS into three categories according to their Salmonella test results as compared with the USDA’s 20% standard. Facilities that limit Salmonella to half of that standard (10%) or less in the last two sets of samples are put in Category 1. Those with Salmonella in over 10% but less than 20% of samples are in Category 2; those exceeding 20% are in Category 3. A set refers to a series of samples collected at one site on successive operating days—51 days in the case of broiler chickens. The FSIS’s current policy is to name the facilities in categories 2 and 3. “FSIS intends to post updated results of completed Salmonella verification sample sets for young chicken slaughter establishments on or about the 15th of each month, beginning in April 2008 …. Each month’s posting will replace that of the previous month.”

The plants listed are located in 12 states and Puerto Rico and the two that failed the standard are a Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation facility in Ellijay, Georgia and a Tyson Foods Inc. plant in Center, Texas. The naming of the 21 plants came following a report in which the consumer group Food and Water Watch listed 27 broiler chicken facilities in 17 states that failed at least one round of Salmonella testing between January 2006 and January 2008. The facilities had a contamination rate higher than 20%. Food and Water watch called on the USDA to publish Salmonella testing results for all chicken plants, to seek legislation to ensure its Salmonella standards are legally enforceable, and also urged the agency to not reduce sampling frequency at plants with the lowest contamination rates.

Thirteen separate poultry companies are represented by the chicken plants named by the FSIS; Pilgrim’s Pride has five plants on the list and Tyson Foods, four. Also, five facilities appear on both the FSIS list and the Food and Water Watch list. Four are listed by the FSIS as Category 2 plants, meaning that between 10% and 20% of recent samples were contaminated; however, that they are on the consumer group list indicates they had over 20% contamination at some point in the past two years.

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