USDA finalizes standards to reduce foodborne illness from poultry

February 12, 2016

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has finalized new federal standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products, as well as in raw chicken breasts, legs, and wings. Based on scientific risk assessments, FSIS estimates that implementation of these standards will lead to an average of 50,000 prevented illnesses annually.

As part of this move to make chicken and turkey items that Americans frequently purchase safer to eat, FSIS has also updated its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and will soon begin posting more information online about individual companies’ food safety performance.

FSIS uses pathogen reduction performance standards to assess the food safety performance of establishments that prepare meat and poultry products. By making the standards for ground poultry tougher to meet, ground poultry products nationwide will have less contamination and therefore result in fewer foodborne illnesses. FSIS implemented performance standards for whole chickens in 1996 but has since learned that Salmonella levels increase as chicken is further processed into parts. Poultry parts like breasts, wings, and others represent 80% of the chicken available for Americans to purchase. By creating a standard for chicken parts, and by performing regulatory testing at a point closer to the final product, FSIS can greatly reduce consumer exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter.

For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is finalizing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 30% reduction in illnesses from Salmonella. For chicken parts and ground chicken, FSIS is finalizing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 32% reduction in illnesses from Campylobacter. Because FSIS has found the prevalence for Campylobacter in ground turkey to be already low, the reduction for this product is estimated to be 19%.

Press release