This column addresses Docket No. FSIS-2019-0023 “Changes to the Salmonella Verification Testing Program: Proposed Performance Standards for Salmonella in Raw Comminuted Pork and Intact or Non-Intact Pork Cuts and Related Agency Verification” For more information, or to comment on the docket, click here. Comments close on April 18.

The introductory paragraph, “Salmonella bacteria are among the most frequent causes of foodborne illness” is excellent in that it defines the problem that, “Currently, events that cause contamination of pork carcasses cannot be completely eliminated from commercial slaughter, fabrication, or further processing operations.” (FSIS 2022)

The proposal does not
Continue Reading FSIS: More testing not preventing


We need more than education
We need pathogen control
Hey Congress, we can’t do it alone
With apologies to Pink Floyd

The theater building at Texas A&M College had an inscription “Ignorance Is the Curse of God,. Knowledge Is the Wing Wherewith We Fly to Heaven. Shakespeare”. That curse has resulted in thousands of illnesses and deaths due to ignorance of safe food handling procedures. 

A. Dr. Mindy Brashears speaks
In a recent column, Dr. Mindy Brashears she noted there is “… an insidious movement we have in society right now, one that undermines science. Not
Continue Reading Education, food safety and issues


During the past half century the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual reports show that salmonellosis has been the leading cause of foodborne death. Salmonellosis is caused by virulent serotypes of the bacterium Salmonella enterica. The sources include undercooked meat or poultry, cross contamination from raw meat or poultry, and poorly washed produce. The species varies in its virulence to humans and animals. Some serotypes are pathogenic to animals but less so to humans. Other serotypes are pathogenic to humans but not to animals, which become asymptomatic carriers.

Public health issues with asymptomatic carriers include:

1. The pathogens
Continue Reading The problem of salmonellosis and politics

Food safety attorney Bill Marler’s petition to ban meat from containing any of 31 Salmonella outbreak serotypes “would be one of the most significant policy changes affecting the meat and poultry industries in decades,” according to the powerful North American Meat Institute (NAMI).

Citing both the significance of the policy change and the current coronavirus outbreak crisis, NAMI wants at least 90 more days for public comment on the petition. The deadline for comments was set for today, but USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will likely grant the NAMI’s request.   

“These are not normal times,” wrote Mark Dopp,
Continue Reading Meat industry wants more comment time for ‘most significant policy change’ in decades


Julie Larson Bricher recently wrote an article on MeatingPlace.com outlining a petition that asks the USDA to declare 31 Salmonella serotypes as adulterants in meat and poultry. The move would make what is now legal against the law. Bricher’s piece has generated a lot of comments.

Today I write not to discuss Bricher’s article — which is based on an interview with the lawyer who filed the petition, Bill Marler. Today I want to discuss comments regarding Bricher’s story. Commenters on MeatingPlace.com can post anonymously or with pseudonyms. Some recent comments on Bricher’s coverage of the petition, and my
Continue Reading The petition perspective from one catbird seat


Not all Salmonella are alike. Camplyobacter likely similar.

Preharvest economic incentives haven’t eliminated STEC but imagine what the data would be like if there were none. Leafy greens anyone? Scandinavia has accomplished a lot and could do more if tourists would stay home.

Ideally, the best place to eliminate those pathogens would be the last steps before consuming, but not on this planet. Almost four decades of FSIS’ Hot Line, and two decades of Fight Bac have accomplished something but not enough. Slaughter houses cannot eliminate the pathogens coming in.

Maybe a 2Log reduction on a good day. (Cf
Continue Reading Salmonella and campylobacter performance standards a ‘good idea’ but . . .


Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part opinion piece. To read part one, please click here.

In the previous article, I wrote about the decades-old public health problem of poultry-borne salmonellosis. This article will propose declaring the virulent strains that are pathogenic to humans as adulterants and the benefits of doing so.

Regulatory policies for other foodborne pathogens recognize consumer’s inability to handle them. The Code of Federal regulations, 9 CFR 311.2-39 describes a number of conditions for declaring meat carcasses adulterated, including: tuberculosis, arthritis, and odors. The poultry regulations 9 CFR, 381.80 et seq are
Continue Reading Reality of our world: Money trumps altruism in the quest for safer poultry

Yesterday’s big beef recall is the largest in history for possible Salmonella contamination, according to an online discussion involving retired USDA microbiologist Carl Custer. 

Custer responded to comments to the industry newsletter Meatingplace that included this one: “Never such a massive recall on ground beef related to Salmonella,” “Not saying it’s a bad thing since it is Newport — nasty little bugger — and illnesses linked.”

Carl Custer

Custer, who retired from government service in 2007, remains active as a highly independent consultant. He is a lifetime member of the International Food Protection Association (IAFP)
Continue Reading Treating virulent strain of Salmonella as adulterant in largest beef recall in history

The most recent outbreak from Escherichia coli O157:H7 in romaine lettuce spurred me to pull up an old draft, trim it and post it in an attempt to promote public health. Enjoy. 

In the Spring of 2017 while sprinkling balsamic vinegar over chopped romaine lettuce, I wondered if anyone had published on the bactericidal effect of vinegar on lettuce. That acetic acid is the most lethal of the organic acids is well known.

In addition to the most recent outbreak, (Marler 2018b) there have been several outbreaks involving lettuce (Marler 2018a). Thus a quick search of: Salmonella Vinegar Salad yielded
Continue Reading Vinegar can help home cooks battle bacteria on leafy greens

Editor’s note: This opinion column offers a differing view from that presented by guest columnist Brian Ronholm in “Eschewing obfuscation on poultry slaughter line speed.” 

Poultry slaughter would flunk HACCP 101. The primary hazards from raw poultry are the pathogens Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. FSIS visible poultry inspection does not yet detect those hazards. The visible conditions that FSIS inspectors can detect are based on 19th and 20th century paradigms that visible disease conditions are the public health hazards. Four decades of CDC data refute that.

Regarding fecal contamination, in consumers’ kitchens, it’s not undercooking poultry, it’s cross
Continue Reading Slaughter practices more significant than poultry line speeds