The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) this week denied a petition that requested USDA to declare dozens of strains of Salmonella as adulterants.

In January 2020, food safety attorney Bill Marler, along with groups such as Food & Water Watch and the Consumer Federation of America, filed a petition urging FSIS to issue an interpretive rule declaring more than 30 serotypes of Salmonella as adulterants within the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). According to the petition these “serotypes constitute an imminent threat to public health necessitating prompt agency action.”

FSIS this week denied the petition without prejudice.

“FSIS does not believe that there is sufficient data available at this time to support the sweeping actions requested in your petition,” the agency wrote. While the agency is denying your petition without prejudice, we are in the process, as announced in October 2021, of reevaluating our approach to controlling Salmonella in poultry. As part of this reevaluation, we are considering many of the points and arguments made in your

The letter continued, “At this time, FSIS cannot justify issuing the broad interpretive rule that you request, which would declare that all Salmonella are ‘added substances’ in all products. Moreover, FSIS is not persuaded by your argument that the court’s interpretation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) in Anderson Seafoods applies to Salmonella in products regulated by FSIS.”

Despite denying the petition and declining to issue an interpretive rule, the agency did leave the door open in its interpretation of Salmonella as an adulterant. “While FSIS has traditionally viewed Salmonella as ‘naturally occurring’ in food animals, we are reassessing this interpretation as part of our Salmonella in poultry initiative and considering whether Salmonella should be considered an adulterant in any poultry products.”

However, the agency’s response reaffirmed that it is seeking to revise its strategy on Salmonella prevalence. “FSIS believes that an updated Salmonella strategy is necessary to reduce such illnesses,” the agency said. “Towards that end, FSIS is actively gathering data and information necessary to support a revised strategy that we hope will be more effective. … FSIS is also leveraging USDA’s strong research capabilities and strengthening its partnership with the Research, Education, and Economics mission area to address data gaps and develop new laboratory methods to guide future Salmonella policy.”

FSIS’s full response can be read here.