FSIS targets poultry and beef safety improvements

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

USDA-FSIS view on the food safety puzzle
USDA-FSIS view on the food safety puzzle

Related tags: Foodborne illness, Fsis

Revised guidelines to help poultry processors control Salmonella and Campylobacter in raw food products have been published by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS).

The guide makes suggestions for interventions that poultry companies can take on the farm (known as pre-harvest), sanitary dressing procedures, processing practices, antimicrobial interventions, and other practices.

The agency said the interventions suggested cannot overcome poor practices in pre-harvest production, sanitary practices in slaughter and dressing or slaughter and further processing facility sanitation.

After looking at past outbreaks, FSIS analyzed the responsible product manufacturers and found problems with sanitation, intervention use, and cooking instructions validation at some or all of them.

Piece of the puzzle

“These guidelines take into account the latest science and practical considerations, including lessons learned from foodborne illness outbreaks in the last several years, to assist establishments in producing safer food,” ​said Al Almanza, USDA deputy under-secretary for Food Safety.

“This new guide is one piece of FSIS’ SalmonellaAction Plan and our effort to reduce Salmonella​ illnesses attributed to meat and poultry products by 25% in order to meet the nation’s Healthy People 2020 goals.” 

FSIS is seeking comment on the guidelines​, which were last updated in 2010. The deadline is February 16, 2016​.

FSIS’ risk assessment estimated the performance standards will lead to an average of 50,000 prevented illnesses annually.

While rates of foodborne illness overall have fallen, Salmonella has remained relatively stagnant, prompting FSIS to address the pathogen in meat and poultry products.

The guidance, with development of performance standards for raw chicken breasts, legs and wings as well as for ground and other comminuted chicken and turkey products unveiled in January, are part of FSIS' Salmonella Action Plan.

Beefing up action

Meanwhile, the agency has published a final rule requiring makers of raw ground beef products keep adequate records of the source material, so it can work with suppliers to recall contaminated product.

The recordkeeping regulations require all official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products maintain the establishment numbers of firms supplying material used to prepare each lot of raw ground beef product; all supplier lot numbers and production dates and names of the supplied materials, including beef components and any materials carried over from one production lot to the next.

They must also keep the date and time each lot of raw ground beef product is produced; and the date and time when grinding equipment and other related food-contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.

Almanza said it can prevent foodborne illness and increase consumer confidence in ground beef.

“In the event that unsafe product does make it into commerce, these new procedures will give us the information we need to act much more effectively to keep families across the country safe.”

USDA-FSIS said outbreak investigations can be hindered when retail stores produce ground beef by mixing product from various sources but fail to keep clear records to allow investigators to determine which supplier produced the unsafe product.

“The traceback mechanism provided for in this final rule will facilitate recall efforts that could stop outbreaks and prevent additional foodborne illnesses,”​ said Brian Ronholm, deputy under-secretary for Food Safety.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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