U.S – A study aimed at combating salmonellosis cases linked to poultry products has confirmed the presence of Salmonella in not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) breaded stuffed chicken products sold in retail stores

The study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) in collaboration with the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) follows FSIS’ proposed determination in April 2023 to declare Salmonella as an adulterant in breaded stuffed raw chicken products.

The survey sought to assess the prevalence of Salmonella in NRTE breaded stuffed chicken products and identify any variations in laboratory testing methods employed. 

A total of 11 geographically dispersed state labs actively participated in the study through FERN. 

From July 1, 2022, to September 30, 2022, these labs procured locally available NRTE breaded stuffed chicken products from retail stores, with an average of 15 samples per month for each product. 

Subsequently, they conducted comprehensive testing to determine the presence of Salmonella and indicator organisms.

Findings and laboratory variations

Out of the 487 samples tested, 58 were positive for Salmonella contamination. Notably, a significant difference in positivity rates emerged between laboratories that employed methods consistent with FSIS (27 percent, or 36 out of 135 samples) using larger test portions, and those utilizing alternative methods (6 percent, or 22 out of 352 samples) with smaller test portions. 

It is worth considering that the lower positivity rates associated with smaller test portions could be attributed to minimal amounts of Salmonella in the products or uneven distribution of contamination within the samples.

Among the positive samples, whole genome sequencing identified multiple strains of Salmonella. Specifically, S. EnteritidisS. InfantisS. Kentucky, and S. Typhimurium were detected. 

Additionally, the study noted that total aerobic counts across the tested products exhibited similar levels.

Implications and ongoing efforts

These study findings shed light on the presence of Salmonella in NRTE breaded stuffed chicken products available at retail stores. 

By identifying variations in laboratory methods and highlighting different positivity rates, the study underscores the importance of consistent testing protocols to ensure accurate assessment of Salmonella contamination. 

These insights will aid the USDA’s FSIS in its ongoing efforts to enhance food safety regulations and reduce the risks associated with Salmonella-contaminated poultry products.

It is crucial for consumers and industry stakeholders to remain vigilant regarding food safety practices and adhere to proper cooking and handling guidelines for poultry products. 

By collectively addressing the challenges posed by Salmonella contamination, authorities, and stakeholders can work towards safeguarding public health and minimizing the incidence of foodborne illnesses linked to poultry consumption.

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