The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Salmonella Action Plan said an estimated 1.3 million illnesses can be attributed to the pathogen every year.
FSIS said that with more information about a plant’s performance history and better methods for assessing in-plant conditions, inspectors will be better positioned to detect Salmonella earlier, before it causes an outbreak.
FSIS will test comminuted poultry to get data for a performance standard and continue to investigate whether there are products not subject to sampling that should be and that are not being evaluated according to the performance standards (> 1 year).
The agency will develop a Salmonella sampling program for pork products (ground pork and other comminuted pork), including a performance standard (begin Q2 FY2014).
The plan identifies modernizing the outdated poultry slaughter inspection system as a top priority which will help lead to the 4,286 Salmonella illness reductions.
Enhancing Salmonella sampling and testing programs is part of the effort, ensuring that the programs use the latest scientific information available and account for emerging trends in foodborne illness.
“The aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen.
The plan outlines actions that will lower Salmonella contamination rates, including performance standards; developing strategies for inspection and throughout the farm-to-table; addressing potential sources and focusing the Agency’s education and outreach tools on Salmonella.
However, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said that the plan ignores antibiotic-resistant Salmonella.
Sarah Klein, CSPI senior food safety attorney, said the failure to address the issue left the public at risk.
“It is shocking for the agency to have stayed on the sidelines of this public health crisis, particularly in the two and a half years since CSPI petitioned the agency to declare certain strains of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella to be adulterants.”
The group said the agency should go further, however, and test every poultry and beef slaughter plant every week for Salmonella.
“This would increase consumer protection, as it would give FSIS real-time data on plant performance and allow the agency to take prompt action if a plant veers off course,” said Klein.
“Testing every plant every week would be critically important for the agency's controversial plan for revamping poultry inspection.”