WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new performance standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens (broilers) and turkeys, fulfilling another key recommendation of the President's Food Safety Working Group.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also released a compliance guide to help the poultry industry address Salmonella and Campylobacter and a compliance guide on known practices for pre-harvest management to reduce E. coli O157:H7 contamination in cattle.
"There is no more important mission at USDA than ensuring the safety of our food, and we are working every day as part of the President's Food Safety Working Group to lower the danger of foodborne illness," said Vilsack. "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."
After two years under the new standards, FSIS estimates that 39,000 illnesses will be avoided each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and 26,000 fewer illnesses each year under the revised Salmonella standards.
The standards announced today are the first-ever standards for Campylobacter, and mark the first revision to the Salmonella standards for chicken since 1996 and for turkeys since the first standards were set in 2005. The performance standards set a level in percentage of samples testing positive for a given pathogen an establishment must achieve and play a key role in reducing the prevalence of foodborne pathogens and preventing harm to consumers. The President's Food Safety Working Group has set a goal of having 90 percent of all poultry establishments meeting the revised Salmonella standard by the end of 2010.
Yesterday's announcement builds on the series of steps to enhance food safety taken by USDA over the past year as part of the Food Safety Working Group, including:
- Launching an initiative to cut down E. coli O157:H7 contamination including stepped-up meat facility inspections by starting the testing of additional components of ground beef, and issuing new instructions to inspectors asking that they verify that plants follow sanitary practices in processing beef carcasses.
- Appointing a chief medical officer within USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to coordinate human health issues within USDA and FSIS and build bridges with the public health community and senior leaders throughout the federal, state and local sectors to establish a consistent approach and heighten food safety awareness.
- Issuing consolidated, more effective field instructions on how to inspect for E. coli O157:H7 contamination.
- Continuing to develop the Public Health Information System (PHIS) to help the Agency more rapidly and accurately identify trends, patterns and anomalies in data and thus allow us to more efficiently, effectively and rapidly protect public health.
By revising current performance standards and setting new ones, FSIS is encouraging establishments to make continued improvement in the occurrence and level of pathogens in the products they produce. FSIS developed the stricter performance standards using recently completed studies that measure the baseline prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chicken (broiler) and turkey carcasses nationwide.
FSIS has developed the third edition of a compliance guide for poultry slaughter which includes recommendations for controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter, as well as a compliance guide on known practices for pre-harvest management to reduce E. coli O157:H7 contamination in cattle. Both documents are priorities for the President's Food Safety Working Group and will be posted on FSIS's website at www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/Compliance_Assistance. The compliance guide on known practices for pre-harvest management to reduce E. coli contamination in cattle will focus on the prevention of E. coli O157:H7 through reduced fecal shedding on the farm and during live animal holding before slaughter. The compliance guide for industry for poultry slaughter includes additional pre-harvest recommendations for controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry.
FSIS is seeking comment on the performance standards and two compliance guides announced in the Federal Register Notice. FSIS expects to begin using the standards after analyzing the comments and, if necessary, making any adjustments.
"Preventing foodborne illness is the core mission of the Food Safety and Inspection Service and today's announcement will help us reduce the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter," said Jerold Mande, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. "We welcome comments on today's announcement."
Comments regarding the compliance guides document must be received within the 60 day comment period through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or by mail to: Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Mailstop 5474, Beltsville, MD 20705-5474. All submissions received through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by mail must reference the Food Safety and Inspection Service and include the docket number "FSIS-2009-0034."