An estimated 1.3 million illnesses can be attributed to Salmonella each year, a key reason why the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Wednesday released its action plan for addressing Salmonella in meat and poultry products.
"Far too many Americans are sickened by Salmonella every year. The aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer," said Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen.
The plan lists FSIS strategies for minimizing the threat of Salmonella, starting with modernizing the poultry slaughter and inspection process. By focusing inspectors' duties solely on food safety, at least 5,000 illnesses can be prevented each year, FSIS said.
Enhancing Salmonella sampling and testing programs is also part of the plan. FSIS says the testing programs will factor in the latest scientific information, and inspectors will be provided tools for pinpointing problems quickly.
With more information about a plant's performance history and with better methods for assessing in-plant conditions, inspectors will be better positioned to detect Salmonella earlier, before it can cause an outbreak, FSIS said.
In addition, the plan outlines several actions FSIS will take to drive innovations that will lower Salmonella contamination rates, including establishing new performance standards; developing new strategies for inspection and throughout the full farm-to-table continuum; addressing all potential sources of Salmonella; and focusing the agency's education and outreach tools on Salmonella.
USDA two years ago strengthened the performance standards for Salmonella in poultry with a goal of significantly reducing illnesses by 20,000 per year. USDA also developed a Salmonella Initiative Program, which introduced processing techniques designed to directly reduce Salmonella in raw meat and poultry.
According to USDA, Salmonella rates in young chickens have dropped over 75% since 2006 as a result of these initiatives.