The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced a new regulatory framework in an effort it says will reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry products.

Specifically, FSIS said it would be proposing three components, including:

  • Requiring incoming flocks be tested for Salmonella before entering an establishment;
  • Enhancing establishment process control monitoring and FSIS verification;
  • Implementing an enforceable final product standard, while considering whether Salmonella at certain levels and/or types of Salmonella should be considered as an adulterant.

“We support the need to develop science-based approaches that will impact public health, but this is being done backwards,” said Ashley Peterson, Ph.D., National Chicken Council senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. “The agency is formulating regulatory policies and drawing conclusions before gathering data, much less analyzing it. This isn’t science – it’s speculation.

“We continue to be disappointed that the agency has failed to use science and research to drive its regulatory policies.”

The facts are that CDC and FSIS’s own data demonstrate progress and clear reductions in Salmonella on chicken products:

  • From July 2021 through June 2022, the latest USDA data available, more than 97% of whole chickens tested negative for Salmonella, as did more than 93% of chicken parts.
  • More than 90% of the industry is meeting or exceeding the FSIS performance standard for Salmonella on whole broiler carcasses. Similarly, more than 90% of broiler establishments are meeting and exceeding the performance standard for Salmonella on chicken parts.
  • Since 2015, when the performance standard for chicken parts went into effect, the industry has reduced Salmonella prevalence by 65%.
  • From 2017-2019, 89% of Salmonella illnesses associated with solved foodborne outbreaks came from food products other than chicken.
  • From 2019-2020, overall outbreaks associated with food decreased 60%.

“While Salmonella prevalence continues to decline, there is still the possibility of illness if a raw product is improperly handled or cooked. Increased consumer education about proper handling and cooking of raw meat must be part of any framework moving forward. Proper handling and cooking of poultry is the last step – not the first – that will help eliminate any risk of foodborne illness. All bacteria potentially found on raw chicken, regardless of strain, are fully destroyed by handling the product properly and cooking it to an internal temperature of 165°.

“We pledge to continue to do our part to drive these numbers down even further. The industry will remain committed to investing significant resources – at the hatchery, feed mill, farm and plant – to build on our success and further enhance the safety profile of chicken products,” Peterson continued. “We look forward to providing comment from the industry and working to ensure new regulations are based on sound science and data.”