U.S – The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a proposed determination to label Salmonella as an adulterant in breaded stuffed raw chicken products when it exceeds a very low threshold of infection. 

The FSIS proposed regulatory framework to minimize Salmonella infections connected to poultry products was first announced in October 2022, and this statement is an important first step that builds on that framework.

It based its proposal to declare Salmonella an adulterant in breaded stuffed raw chicken products on a number of considerations, including the fact that since 1998, it has investigated 14 Salmonella outbreaks with its public health partners and counted about 200 illnesses linked to these products.

The most recent outbreak was in 2021 and resulted in illnesses across 11 states.

“USDA is taking science-based, decisive action to drive down Salmonella illnesses linked to poultry products.

“Today’s proposal represents the first step in a broader effort to control Salmonella contamination in all poultry products, as well as a continued commitment to protecting American consumers from foodborne illness,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Based on this proposal, the FSIS would deem as adulterated any breaded stuffed raw chicken products that contain a component of chicken that tested positive for Salmonella at 1 colony forming unit (CFU) per gram prior to stuffing and breading.

Additionally, to ensure that manufacturing facilities manage Salmonella in these products, FSIS is proposing to carry out verification measures, such as sampling and testing of the chicken component of breaded stuffed raw chicken items prior to stuffing and breading.

The product lot represented by the sampled component would not be allowed to be used to create the final breaded stuffed raw chicken items if the chicken component in these products does not match this criterion.

The sampling lot’s chicken component would need to be used for something other than breaded stuffed raw chicken products.

Although products with breaded and stuffed raw chicken are pre-browned and may look cooked, the chicken is actually raw.

These items contain elements like raw vegetables, butter, cheese, or meat like ham. Consumers frequently cook the products in a frozen state, which raises the possibility that they won’t reach the interior temperature required to kill salmonella.

Additionally, because these products contain numerous ingredients that may cook at various rates, it may be challenging for a consumer to determine an accurate internal temperature of these products.

These products’ labels have undergone substantial revisions throughout time in order to effectively communicate to consumers that they are raw foods and how to prepare them safely. However, these products continue to be linked to Salmonella disease outbreaks.

Furthermore, consumer research by the FSIS and data from outbreaks indicate that some people might not be aware that these products contain raw chicken because the exterior may look browned and cooked, leading them to believe that the product is safe to eat as is or that the product does not need to be cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Regarding the proposed determination and the proposed verification sample program, FSIS is looking for public feedback which must be submitted within 60 days of their publication in the Federal Register.

Salmonella infections

Salmonella bacteria are thought to be responsible for over 1.35 million human infections and 26,500 hospitalizations annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Over 23% of the infections are linked to eating poultry. People’s lives can be drastically affected by foodborne disease, both personally and financially, with economic repercussions.

According to data from the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), the overall yearly cost of foodborne Salmonella infections in the United States is a startling US$4.1 billion, with an additional US$88 million in lost productivity costs to the economy. These expenses are actual costs to actual individuals and they ought to be avoided.

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