USDA integrates Salmonella quantification testing in regional laboratories

U.S – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has integrated Salmonella quantification testing in its Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS)  regional laboratories, as part of its new approach to handling Salmonella in poultry.

In June, the USDA announced that it was rethinking its approach to Salmonella in poultry based on a review of data from 2015 to 2020 that showed a higher than anticipated reduction in Salmonella-contaminated chicken parts, but no corresponding decrease in Salmonella-related illnesses attributable to poultry products.

"One of the things that has been discussed quite a bit is quantification—not only do we want to know whether Salmonella is present, we want to know how much is present. This is what the GENE-UP QUANT Salmonella assay measures."

Miguel Villa, Vice President of Industrial Applications for the Americas at bioMérieux Tweet

For the past three years, bioMérieux and other companies have been in dialogue with the USDA FSIS and the FDA about the use of quantification for food safety and food testing for the benefit of public health.

“There was discussion about the fact that, after years and years of better controls, increased testing and an increasing regulatory framework around food safety the level of foodborne illness that we continue to see is not where the regulators or the public want it to be,” said Miguel Villa, Vice President of Industrial Applications for the Americas at bioMérieux in an interview with Food Safety Tech.

The agency is now using GENE-UP QUANT Salmonella assay from bioMérieux, a non-enrichment quantification diagnostic tool for Salmonella.

“The regulations now are focused on the presence or absence of Salmonella, and the regulators have accepted recently that we need to do more. One of the things that has been discussed quite a bit is quantification—not only do we want to know whether Salmonella is present, we want to know how much is present. This is what the GENE-UP QUANT Salmonella assay measures,” Villa said.

He explained that the assay would come in handy to check how much Salmonella there is whenever the FSIS gets a positive sample, hence gain a better understanding of what they’re dealing with in terms of risk to public health.

GENE UP is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which uses mathematical modeling to correlate the things that you see in the sample, quantify them and also assess them accurately from a sample that is not enriched.

Villa noted that quantification was recognized several years back as a potential way to start correlating clinical outcomes—or the lack of them—with certain levels of Salmonella.

“We think there will come a time where people will start to agree that one of the data points you need as part of your risk assessment to make decisions at an industrial level is how much Salmonella is in the original sample. If it’s below a certain level, it may not be considered as risky,” he said.

He pointed out that combining quantification and serotyping will in the near future, be able to give manufacturers very precise readings loaded with all the information needed to make sound decisions.

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