USDA Sets New Poultry Testing Standards to Prevent Food Poisoning

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) just announced its implementation of revised and new performance standards to minimize <"">food poisoning risks from pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, in young chickens and turkeys, said Southeast AgNet News. Standards are effective July 2011.

The FSIS will announce the new standards and invite comment in the Federal Register Notice to be published soon, said AgNet News.

The FSIS is urging firms that slaughter poultry to continue pathogen reduction efforts, specifically naming Salmonella and Campylobacter, said AgNet News. The FSIS believes that after two years of maintaining these standards some 5,000 illnesses will be prevented annually under Campylobacter standards; about 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under Salmonella standards annually, noted AgNet News.

“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, quoted AgNet News. “There is no more important mission at 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,” Secretary Vilsack added.

Stronger standards were created by FSIS that utilized recent, nationwide studies in which the baseline occurrence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and turkeys being prepared for sale, explained AgNet News. The studies revealed that while improvements were in place, consumer risk for these pathogens remained.

“While the industry has made significant strides in recent years, far too many Americans continue to fall victim to these foodborne illnesses,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, quoted AgNet News. “These improved standards will drive the industry to do better. They are tough but achievable. And when fully implemented, they will prevent tens of thousands of Americans from getting sick,” she continued.

Three core principles were developed by President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) created to assist in the guidance of food safety in the United States: “Prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery,” wrote AgNet News.

As we’ve recently written, in the U.S., Salmonella and Campylobacter are among the top two culprits identified in reported food poisoning illnesses and deaths. Salmonella infection can lead to long-term and serious adverse health effects, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and a form of reactive arthritis called Reiter’s Syndrome, which typically affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and the lower back.

Campylobacter infections can also lead to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a potentially paralyzing illness that can leave victims with mild to severe neurological damage, as well as meningitis. Both infections can be found in raw or undercooked poultry, among other foods.

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