U.S – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) has garnered widespread support from influential food safety advocates, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), for its initiative to combat Salmonella risk in breaded, stuffed chicken products.

The proposed regulation would designate Salmonella as an adulterant in breaded, stuffed, not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) chicken products, with the backing of a consortium including the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Stop Foodborne Illness, and prominent attorney William (Bill) Marler.

At the heart of this endeavor lies the intention to curb salmonellosis cases associated with NRTE chicken products, such as Chicken Cordon Bleu and Chicken Kiev.

These frozen products, often pre-browned and deceptively resembling cooked items, have been disproportionately linked to salmonellosis outbreaks. Recognizing their potential risks, the collective of advocates seeks to educate consumers and promote safer handling and cooking practices.

The effort to bolster poultry Salmonella regulations was set in motion in 2021 when concerned groups petitioned USDA, highlighting a need for tangible improvements.

The plea encompassed enforceable final product standards, preventing the sale of products containing alarming levels of Salmonella contamination. This approach, they argued, would drive the industry towards enhanced quality control and thwart the distribution of high-risk products to consumers.

Proposed regulation framework

USDA’s April 2023 proposed rule is anchored on the classification of Salmonella as an adulterant in NRTE, breaded, stuffed chicken products if present at over 1 colony forming unit per gram (CFU/g) of the product.

This forward-thinking measure contributes to the broader mission of reducing Salmonella-related illnesses stemming from poultry consumption.

The unity of voices from CSPI and fellow advocates echoes their support for the 1 CFU/g threshold, deeming it effective in curtailing a significant portion of illnesses connected to the targeted products.

CSPI underscores that the proposed Salmonella standard eases the onus on home cooks to eliminate the pathogen, emphasizing the ongoing significance of proper cooking techniques.

Significant classification shift

Crucially, the advocates align with FSIS’ determination classifying Salmonella as an “added substance.” This marks a departure from viewing the bacterium as “naturally occurring” in food animals.

The distinction holds paramount significance in the context of determining product adulteration under federal law, reflecting a shift towards more stringent safety considerations.

The coalition of advocacy groups also extends their support to FSIS’ commitment to evolving its determination in response to advancements in scientific understanding.

Embracing technologies like rapid serotyping and whole genome sequencing, future adjustments to standards may target specific, virulent Salmonella strains, ensuring an ever-evolving safeguard against potential threats.

As USDA’s FSIS embarks on this regulatory journey, the chorus of support from food safety advocates stands as a testament to the importance of vigilant measures in protecting public health.

This collaborative effort, anchored by informed insights and science-backed decisions, holds the potential to redefine industry norms and raise the bar for food safety standards. Through the collective determination of these advocates, a safer culinary landscape emerges for all.

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