By Sandra Eskin, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety in Health and Safety


When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new effort to reduce Salmonella in poultry, we led with the numbers. The number of illnesses due to Salmonella has not decreased over the last two decades. Year after year, people have become ill with Salmonella infections at roughly the same rate. Each case of foodborne illness represents someone whose life was impacted. And among the most vulnerable — children, the elderly, and those with underlying health issues — those impacts can be serious, leading to physical, emotional, and financial harm. These are the people who are always top of mind for me and who motivate me to come to work each day.

The lack of progress toward our national public health goal for Salmonella illness reduction is a call to action. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is responsible for ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products, tests raw poultry products for Salmonella as part of its ongoing monitoring program. FSIS testing data indicate that Salmonella contamination on poultry has been going down, but we have not seen a corresponding reduction in human illness. This tells us that we need to do something different to drive down human illness.

My experience in building coalitions as a consumer advocate has taught me that to reach our public health goal, it will take the combined efforts of innovative and committed people. I’m proud to say that many of those most eager to tackle this problem can be found within FSIS. I’ve also reached out to industry, consumer advocates, and academics to hear their ideas about how FSIS can reduce Salmonella illnesses attributable to poultry consumption. We’ve seen great enthusiasm for this initiative and broad support from a wide range of stakeholders who want to help get us there.

We’ve already had insightful discussions with external stakeholders and within the agency as we gather information to help guide our new strategy. We’ve been learning about the experiences, science, and research on Salmonella in poultry to help us put forward the best proposals for a more effective approach to reduce Salmonella illnesses. Learn more about FSIS efforts to reduce Salmonella in poultry.

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