Outbreaks Spur New Food Safety Plans for Poultry

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service aims to protect consumers from Salmonella and other pathogens in poultry products with new food safety plans and inspections, according to the agency’s regulation.
     The action is in response to a series of 2011 Salmonella outbreaks in multiple states, caused by contaminated poultry products produced by various manufacturers, the rule said.
     The products specified in the regulation are Not Ready To Eat turkey or chicken products that are “ground, mechanically separated, or hand- or mechanically-deboned poultry that is further chopped, flaked, minced, or otherwise processed to reduce particle size, but not battered or breaded,” referred to in the industry as “comminuted.”
     Three patients were hospitalized in Wisconsin, Colorado and Ohio early in 2011 after eating turkey burgers, and inspections detected the Salmonella pathogen in turkey meatloaf in Minnesota and a ground turkey product in New Mexico, resulting in a recall of 54,960 pounds of ground turkey, the rule noted.
     The FSIS recalled 36 million pounds of turkey products from another manufacturer in August 2011 that had a different strain of Salmonella that sickened 79 people in 26 states with one death reported, according to the agency’s recall notice.
     Companies that produce these poultry products are required to reassess their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans over the next 90 days, after which the FSIS will conduct a checklist survey to see if the companies made changes to their HACCP plans, and will then evaluate the survey information and publish industry guidance on best practices to reduce Salmonella in poultry, the rule said.
     “HACCP reassessments improve a company’s ability to identify hazards and better prevent foodborne illness,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, in a press release.
     The agency also plans to expand its Salmonella verification and sampling program to include other raw poultry products, and plans to increase the sample size to provide more consistency for Salmonella and Campylobacter analysis, the agency said.
     “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,” the agency noted.

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