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FSIS Sets Pathogen Standards for Poultry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has developed new pathogen reduction performance standards for control of Salmonella and Campylobacter in chilled carcasses at young chicken (broiler) and turkey slaughter establishments that are eligible for agency verification sampling.

In the past, FSIS has had standards for Salmonella but not for Campylobacter.  The President’s Food Safety Working Group made these recommendations for new standards to reduce the prevalence of disease-causing bacteria, specifically Salmonella and Campylobacter, in poultry.  

The new performance standards are based on the analysis of data from recent FSIS baseline sample collection programs for young chickens and turkeys. In the very near future, FSIS will issue a Federal Register notice that will provide specific details concerning the new standards.  
This notice will provide a full account of the development of these performance standards and their estimated public health impact.  FSIS will also invite comments from the public, at which time the agency will evaluate the comments and make necessary adjustments in response to those comments in a following Federal Register notice.

FSIS has set a goal that 90 percent of covered establishments will meet the new standards for Salmonella bacteria by the end of 2010.  The new Salmonella performance standards will limit the number of positive samples that are acceptable in a defined set, as compared to past standards.  

The new Campylobacter standards will also limit the number of positive samples that are acceptable in a defined set.  The laboratory procedures for Campylobacter specifically detect samples with high numbers of organisms.  Being that this pathogen does not grow under normal handling temperatures, and products with higher initial contamination are relatively more hazardous, it is important to limit high numbers of Campylobacter bacteria in carcasses.

Similar in design to the agency’s current testing program, FSIS will implement a verification testing program, and use the results as one measure of establishment process control for reducing exposure of pathogens to the public.  The FSIS has found that using pathogen reduction performance standards in this way is an effective way of encouraging improved establishment control of pathogens.  

In the near future, the agency will also post draft compliance guidelines on known practices for pre-harvest management to reduce E. coli O157:H7 contamination in cattle on its Web site.  These guidelines will focus on the prevention of E. coli O157:H7 through fecal shedding on the farm and during live animal holding before slaughter.

The President’s Food Safety Working Group has made it a priority to post the draft third addition of compliance guidelines for poultry slaughter, as well as pre-harvest recommendations for controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry.  

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