New USDA policies target ground-poultry safety

Dec 6, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) yesterday announced new measures to improve the safety of raw ground turkey and chicken products, including requiring companies to reassess their food safety plans.

The new steps are in response to several Salmonella outbreaks that have been linked to ground poultry, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said in a statement.

In August 2011 a Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak linked to ground turkey produced at a Cargill Meat Solutions processing plant in Springdale, Ark., sickened at least 111 people in 31 states. The outbreak sparked a recall of 36 million pounds fresh and frozen ground turkey made at the plant, according to previous reports.

Earlier that year, a Salmonella Hadar outbreak linked to Jennie-O ground turkey burgers sickened at least 12 patients and led to the recall of nearly 55,000 pounds of frozen, raw turkey burger products.

Companies that produce raw ground chicken and turkey are required to reassess their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans within the next 90 days, the FSIS said.

Elizabeth Hagen, MD, the USDA's under secretary for food safety, said in the statement that HACCP reassessments improve companies' ability to flag hazards and prevent contamination. "Incorporating information obtained from Salmonella outbreaks will enhance food safety efforts, helping to avoid future outbreaks and ensure a safer food supply for consumers," she said.

The FSIS today posted the notice about the new policy on its Web site and in the Federal Register and asked stakeholders to submit comments on the new steps by Mar 6, 2013.

Besides the HACCP reassessment, the FSIS also announced other measures. These include expanding the agency's Salmonella testing program to other raw "comminuted" poultry products, increasing the sample size from 25 grams to 325 grams to ensure consistency as the agency prepares to begin testing for both Salmonella and Campylobacter, and gauging Salmonella prevalence in comminuted raw poultry products in preparation for setting new performance standards.

Yesterday the American Meat Institute (AMI) said it would analyze the FSIS raw ground poultry notice and provide guidance to its members. The AMI also said it would file comments with the FSIS.

See also:

Dec 5 USDA statement

Dec 6 FSIS Federal Register notice

Dec 5 AMI statement

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