Thursday, September 21, 2023

New measures proposed to reduce salmonella illnesses

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Salmonella is a very common illness. According to the Cleveland Clinic, salmonella is a bacteria that can develop in under-cooked or uncooked poultry or seafood. The bacteria can grow also if the meat has been left out in the heat for too long.

It does not take very long for poultry or seafood to go bad in 90-degree F weather, or if it is left outside for more than two hours. A person can also get salmonella from polluted water or unpasteurized milk.

When handling uncooked chicken, it is very important for someone to wash their hands to limit and eliminate the bacteria.

New regulations

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, it’s proposing a supervisory structure for a new policy to reduce the number of salmonella related illnesses and to regulate salmonella in poultry products.

The new rule has been under review for several months while information was being gathered and discussions were made with stakeholders, researchers and scientists. The organization is gathering scientific evidence that backs the methods in this new structure. The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods has been given the task of determining what types of microbiological criteria the FSIS could use to prevent salmonella related illnesses with chicken products.

The FSIS is concluding their risk assessment of salmonella subtypes, all the while working quantitative evaluations for the illness in chicken and turkey that will focus on issues linked with this agenda. The organization has grown its exploratory sampling system for young chicken carcasses to produce microbial data to innovate and transition from using presence-based tests to tests that can find the amount of salmonella cells in poultry products.

The FSIS has always tried to reduce the number of salmonella illnesses, but their current approach has not rendered the results they wanted, the department announced. The U.S. Health and Human Services and the FSIS have worked hand-in-hand using the Healthy People initiative to lessen salmonella. Both organizations seemed to have reached their goal of less salmonella infections.

However, in the past decade their target goals were not met. The USDA and the FSIS plan to decrease infections by 25 percent by 2030. During 2017 to 2021, the FSIS was able to detect salmonella in chicken samples and reduce it by 50 percent. Although, the rate of human infections has stayed the same for the last two decades with an approximate 1.35 million illnesses in the United States each year.

The Interagency Food Safety Collaboration reported that more than 23 percent of foodborne salmonella infections come from eating a particular meat like turkey and chicken. They report an illness rate from chicken at approximately 17 percent, and about 6 percent from turkey.

This new agenda comprises three components to control salmonella in poultry:

  1. To require entering flocks be tested for salmonella before arriving at an institution.
  2. Enhancing establishment process control monitoring and FSIS verification.
  3. Implementing an enforcement final product standard.

Industry reaction

“We support the need to develop science-based approaches that will impact public health, but this is being done backwards,” said Dr. Ashley Peterson, the National Chicken Council’s senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. “The agency is formulating regulatory policies and drawing conclusions before gathering data, much less analyzing it. This isn’t science — it’s speculation.”

“We continue to be disappointed that the agency has failed to use science and research to drive its regulatory policies,” Peterson added.

The NCC says the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FSIS show that there have been reductions in salmonella infections. From July 2021 through June 2022, the most recent data from the USDA demonstrates that 97 percent of whole chickens tested negative for salmonella along with 93 percent of chicken parts. More than 90 percent of chicken production is meeting or surpassing the FSIS performance requirement for salmonella on whole broiler carcasses.

Likewise, more than 90 percent of broiler companies are meeting and surpassing the performance requirements for salmonella on chicken parts, NCC notes. In 2015 the performance requirement for poultry went into effect and since then salmonella have decreased by 65 percent.

From 2017 to 2019, 89 percent of foodborne salmonella illnesses came other foods instead chicken products. In 2019 and 2020, the total outbreaks from food decreased by 60 percent.

“While salmonella prevalence continues to decline, there is still the possibility of illness if a raw product is improperly handled or cooked. Increased consumer education about proper handling and cooking of raw meat must be part of any framework moving forward,” Peterson said. “Proper handling and cooking of poultry is the last step — not the first — that will help eliminate any risk of foodborne illness. All bacteria potentially found on raw chicken, regardless of strain, are fully destroyed by handling the product properly and cooking it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.”

“We pledge to continue to do our part to drive these numbers down even further,” she added. “The industry will remain committed to investing significant resources — at the hatchery, feed mill, farm and plant — to build on our success and further enhance the safety profile of chicken products. Americans eat about 150 million servings of chicken every day and can feel confident in the safety of the supply.”

“National Turkey Federation members are committed to further enhancing the safety of their products and building on the turkey industry’s ongoing efforts to address salmonella throughout turkey production,” the National Turkey Federation said in a statement. “As FSIS and industry look towards comprehensive strategies to advance this priority, it is imperative that the best science drive food safety policy.

“The Salmonella Framework … is a starting point and should be the topic of robust debate and discussion among stakeholders. NTF looks forward to continued dialogue with FSIS and working to identify effective, practical solutions to support public health.”

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