FSIS Releases Action Plan on Salmonella

The plan says FSIS will consider posting Category 2 and even Category 1 establishments on its website, in addition to the already posted Category 3 establishments, in order to provide an "incentive for industry to improve process control."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service released its Salmonella Action Plan on Dec. 4, listing actions it will take to address what the agency called the most pressing problem it faces: Salmonella in meat and poultry products. This causes an estimated 1.3 million illnesses annually. "Far too many Americans are sickened by Salmonella every year. The aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer," Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said.

The plan lists 10 steps, starting with a modernization of the poultry slaughter inspection system, which FSIS estimates will prevent at least 4,286 Salmonella illnesses per year, and developing new in-plant strategies to aid inspectors. One of the steps is a transparency action that may be unpopular with poultry processors: FSIS will consider posting Category 2 and even Category 1 establishments on its website, in addition to the already posted Category 3 establishments, in order to provide an "incentive for industry to improve process control." Category 1 establishments have results from their two most recent completed sample sets that are at or below half of the standard; for young chickens, this would be at or below 4 percent (2 positive samples out of a set of 51). Category 2 establishments have results from their most recent completed sample set that are higher than half of the standard but do not exceed the standard; for young chickens, this would be above 4 percent (3 or more positive samples out of a set of 51) but at or below 7.5 percent (5 positive samples out of 51). Category 3 establishments have results from their most recent completed sample set that exceed 7.5 percent (6 or more positive samples out of 51) for young chickens.

The plan says that, by focusing inspectors' duties solely on food safety, at least 5,000 illnesses can be prevented per year. "These efforts will build upon the work that USDA has done over the past several years. In 2011, USDA strengthened the performance standards for Salmonella in poultry with a goal of significantly reducing illnesses by 20,000 per year. And through the Salmonella Initiative Program, plants are now using processing techniques designed to directly reduce Salmonella in raw meat and poultry. Thanks to these innovative technologies and tough policies, Salmonella rates in young chickens have dropped over 75 percent since 2006," according to FSIS.

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