Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to finalize USDA’s Salmonella and Campylobacter performance standards as soon as possible.
In January, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) proposed changes to the Salmonella and Campylobacter Verification Testing Program created brand-new standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter levels in chicken breasts, legs and wings, and for Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey. The agency also updated the existing standards for Salmonella in ground chicken and turkey to make them harder to meet.
The agency estimates that the changes will prevent about 50,000 illnesses each year.
“Public health is at stake and we believe the department should act swiftly to implement these new safeguards,” the senators wrote to Vilsack on Thursday.
They said they were troubled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2014 Food Safety Progress report showed a lack of progress made in reducing the number of Salmonella illnesses and that Campylobacter illnesses have increased by 13 percent over the baseline numbers from 2006-2008.
“These alarming rates of foodborne illness are caused, in part, by the unacceptably high levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination on poultry products,” the senators wrote. “Routine testing done in 2013 by the department found that more than 40 percent of ground chicken tested positive for Salmonella. A 2012 study found that 26 percent of poultry parts tested positive for Salmonella and 21 percent tested positive for Campylobacter.”
Public comments were accepted on the proposed changes through March, and FSIS in January that said it planned to announce final standards and an implementation date for them in the spring.© Food Safety News