Twenty-two months after a petition was filed requesting that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) declare certain “outbreak” serotypes of Salmonella to be per se adulterants in meat and poultry,  the government is still thinking about it.

Rachel Edelstein, Assistant Administrator for the FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development, has updated petition sponsors in a letter to nationally-known food safety attorney William D.  Marler, who requested the status update on the petition filed Jan. 19, 2020.

Marler on behalf of Rick Schiller, Steven Romes, the Porter family, Food and Water Watch, the Consumer Federation of America, and Consumer Reports wants  FSIS to classify certain “outbreak serotypes”  of salmonella as adulterates in meat and poultry. Several toxic E. coli strains, including O157:H7 are adulterants, meaning they are banned from meat and poultry.

No Salmonella serotypes are yet listed as adulterants.

FSIS opened the petition to public comments that closed on May 22, 2020.   It collected 377 comments, which included criticisms and raised issues that Marler responded to in a supplement to the petition on June 5, 2020.

Edelstein said that FSIS considers a Jan. 25, 2020, petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to be “related” to Marler’s filing. The CSPI petition requests that FSIS initiate rulemaking to 1) establish enforceable finished product standards for Salmonella types of greatest public health concern and Campylobacter and 2) require poultry establishments to identify and control food safety risks within their supply chain.

“The agency intends to consider the issues raised in both petitions together to ensure that any agency actions implemented in response to the petitions are consistent,” Edelstein’s letter to  Marler says. “FSIS will response to the CSPI petition and your petition after it has thoroughly evaluated the issues raised, as well as the comments submitted on the petitions and any supplement information.”

Edelstein also said the two petitions with their “new approaches” will be considered by the recently announced “plans to explore possible new approaches for addressing Salmonella in poultry” that were announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and USDA’s Office of Food Safety.

She also said the FSIS has asked the National Advisory Committee for the Microbiological Criteria of Foods (NSCMCF)  ‘to explore ways in which the Agency could address  Salmonella serotypes more frequently associated with human illness, strain characteristics (e.g. virulence favors), and quantity of Salmonella on raw poultry products when evaluating industry’s control of Salmonella.”

The industry opposes the Marler petition on the grounds that Salmonella is not an “added substance” in meat and poultry products.

Marler is the publisher of Food Safety News.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)