The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced implementation of revised and new performance standards aimed at reducing the prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and turkeys. The improved standards will become effective in July 2011. With the new standards, FSIS is encouraging establishments slaughtering chicken and turkey to make continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens – namely Salmonella and Campylobacter – in the products they produce.

After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.

“These improved standards are a stronger buffer between foodborne illnesses and our consumers, especially our most vulnerable consumers – children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “There is no more important mission at USDA than ensuring the safety of our food, and we are working every day to lower the danger of foodborne illness. 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.”

FSIS developed stricter performance standards using recently completed nationwide studies that measure the baseline prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and turkeys prepared for market. The studies indicated that, despite improvements, there was still a risk of consumers being exposed to these pathogens through poultry.

“While the industry has made significant strides in recent years, far too many Americans continue to fall victim to these foodborne illnesses,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “These improved standards will drive the industry to do better. They are tough but achievable. And when fully implemented, they will prevent tens of thousands of Americans from getting sick.”

President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) developed three core principles to help guide food safety in the United States: prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery. In its overall mission to ensure a safe food supply for the public, and in response to the FSWG, FSIS developed the stricter performance standards to cut the Salmonella risk in poultry products.
FSIS is announcing the new performance standards and inviting comment in the Federal Register Notice that will publish shortly.