US toughens food safety regulation for poultry

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Around 1.2 million illness are caused by salmonella every year, say the USDA
Around 1.2 million illness are caused by salmonella every year, say the USDA

Related tags: Food safety, United states department of agriculture, Foodborne illness, Tom vilsack

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finalised new federal food safety regulations to reduce the risk of salmonella and campylobacter in chicken products.

In a bid to make chicken safer for American consumers, the USDA and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) said the implementation of the safety standards would lead to an estimated 50,000 fewer illnesses a year.

FSIS said it would update its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and would soon begin posting results online about individual companies’ food safety performance.

Tighter safety measures

Over the past seven years, USDA has put in place tighter and more strategic food safety measures than ever before for meat and poultry products,​” said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement on Friday 5 February.

We have made strides in modernising every aspect of food safety inspection, from company record-keeping to labelling requirements and to the way we perform testing in our labs.

These new standards, in combination with greater transparency about poultry companies’ food safety performance and better testing procedures, will help prevent tens of thousands of foodborne illnesses every year.​”

Improve public health

An estimated 1.2 million foodborne illnesses are thought to be caused every year by salmonella, with approximately 360,000 of those illnesses linked to FSIS-regulated products, the USDA said.

New safety standards will make the testing of ground poultry more robust and the FSIS hoped this would make it harder for contamination to occur. Whole chicken carcases have been tested for possible foodborne contamination since 1996 in the US. But the American public health agency confirmed it had only recently discovered that salmonella levels increase as chicken was further processed.

As poultry parts like breasts, wings and thighs represent 80% of the chicken available for Americans to purchase, a move to test poultry when it is closer to the final product was needed, said FSIS.

This approach to poultry inspection is based on science, supported by strong data, and will truly improve public health,​” said USDA deputy under-secretary for food safety Al Almanza.

The new performance standards will complement the many other proactive, prevention-based food policies that we’ve put in place in recent years to make America’s supply of meat and poultry safer to eat.​”

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