The US is tightening hygiene controls on ground and mechanically-separated poultry in the wake of several salmonella outbreaks linked to these products.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that all US plants handling ‘comminuted’ poultry products would have to review their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans in the next 90 days.
Additionally, the FSIS said it would begin sampling to determine the prevalence of salmonella in raw comminuted poultry, using the results to develop performance standards for these products. Campylobactor standards are also likely to be developed.
USDA under secretary for food safety Dr Elisabeth Hagen said: “HACCP reassessments improve a company’s ability to identify hazards and better prevent foodborne illness. Incorporating information obtained from salmonella outbreaks will enhance food safety efforts, helping to avoid future outbreaks and ensure a safer food supply for consumers.”
The new measures will be subject to a consultation period and both the American Meat Institute and National Chicken Council said they would be submitting comments once they had reviewed the recommendations.
Ashley Peterson, vice-president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the National Chicken Council (NCC), said: “The chicken industry will continue to embrace and review science-based approaches that will enhance our food safety efforts. We look forward to a careful review of the recommendations put forward in this new policy announcement and anticipate offering comments to the agency in the near future.”
Peterson added that there was considerable evidence that HACCP programmes in poultry processing plants reduced incidents of foodborne illness. “Ground and mechanically-separated chicken plays an important role as a safe, affordable and wholesome protein source in the food supply both here and abroad,” he said.
There were two outbreaks of salmonella linked to raw comminuted poultry in the US last year. In February, a number of people were hospitalised with Salmonella Hadar. The infection was traced back to ground turkey products from Jennie-O Turkey Store, which was forced to recall more than 50,000 pounds of raw turkey burgers. In May, 29 people became ill with Salmonella Heidelberg, in an outbreak that stretched across 18 states. The infection was traced back to Cargill Meat Solutions, which recalled approximately 36 million pounds of ground turkey products.