The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently released its “Salmonella Action Plan” that outlines the steps it will take to address what it calls the most pressing problem it faces: Salmonella in meat and poultry products. In fact, FSIS’ prevention efforts started back a few years ago when it made reducing incidence of Salmonella the priority goal of its 2011-2016 Strategic Plan.
It’s estimated that 1.3 million illnesses a year can be attributed to Salmonella.
“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,” says under secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen.
The plan identifies modernizing the outdated poultry slaughter inspection system as a top priority. According to FSIS, by focusing inspectors’ duties solely on food safety, at least 5,000 illnesses can be prevented each year.
Enhancing Salmonella sampling and testing programs is part of this effort as well. These programs will factor in the latest scientific information available and account for emerging trends in foodborne illness. Inspectors will also be empowered with the tools necessary to expeditiously pinpoint problems. With more information about a plant’s performance history and with better methods for assessing in-plant conditions, inspectors will supposedly be better positioned to detect Salmonella earlier, before it can cause an outbreak.
Overall, 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.