U.S – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is planning to declare Salmonella as an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products as a way of safeguarding the market from contaminated products.
By declaring Salmonella to be an adulterant, FSIS will have the authority to ensure that highly contaminated products do not enter the market. The action is part of FSIS’ broader efforts to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry.
“Food safety is at the heart of everything FSIS does. That mission will guide us as this important first step launches a broader initiative to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry in the U.S,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Breaded and stuffed raw chicken products are of particular concern because they have been linked to 14 foodborne illness outbreaks and 200 illnesses since 1998, says USDA.
Typically found in the freezer section at grocery stores, the products have been a constant source of confusion due to their ready-to-eat guise.
According to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), efforts to improve labeling for the products has not been effective at reducing consumer illnesses. Cordon bleu and chicken Kiev are examples of such products.
These products appear cooked, but they are heat-treated only to set the batter or breading and the product contains raw poultry.
FSIS will propose to set the Salmonella limit of breaded and stuffed raw chicken products at 1 colony forming unit (CFU) per gram. If the products exceed the limit, then they will be considered adulterated and be subject to regulatory action.
The agency will also consider public opinion on whether a different standard for adulteration, such as “zero tolerance” or standards based on specific serotypes, would be more appropriate.
The notice is expected to publish in the Federal Register in fall (September), and FSIS will be seeking public comments that address what the standard should encompass, as well as to inform a final implementation plan, including a verification testing program.
Once published, the notice will be posted in FSIS’ “Federal Register and Rulemaking” page for review and comment.
When the proposal is finalized, FSIS will announce its final implementation plans and the date on which it will begin routine testing for Salmonella in the specified products.
“Today’s announcement is an important moment in U.S. food safety because we are declaring Salmonella an adulterant in a raw poultry product. This is just the beginning of our efforts to improve public health,” said Sandra Eskin, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety.
In October 2021, USDA announced it was reevaluating its strategy for controlling Salmonella in poultry, including whether Salmonella should be considered an adulterant in specific raw poultry products.