New Approaches Needed in Reducing Salmonella-Related Illnesses

Current federal performance standards for Salmonella contamination in chicken “do not adequately protect public health” and should be improved, a report released last month by the Pew Charitable Trusts asserts. The document suggests changes that could improve the control of Salmonella contamination in chicken and strengthen federal regulators’ responses to outbreaks.

The reportis critical of the response by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to recent multistate outbreaks of Salmonella Heidelberg infections. The authors note that two multistate outbreaks, which have sickened at least 523 people, have been linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms. The Foster Farms’ California plant was recently shut down on January 8 by the feds, not because of contaminated products, but due to roach infestation. 

“When you have more than 500 people getting sick from products produced by companies that are following government policies, that means those policies are not protecting public health,” says Sandra Eskin, JD. Eskin is director of food safety at Pew and leader of the project that produced the December 19 report, “Weaknesses in FSIS’s Salmonella Regulation.”

Deficiencies identified in the Pew document include the following:

- In contrast to other pathogens, FSIS does not consider Salmonella to be an adulterant in raw poultry;
- Performance standards are not updated regularly and do not incorporate public health objectives;
- There are no performance standards for chicken parts, which are more widely purchased than whole chickens;
- Companies receive notification before government testing for Salmonella; and
- The FSIS cannot close a plant based only on results of Salmonella verification testing.

Fonte: Food Quality