On April 25, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a proposed determination to declare Salmonella an adulterant in breaded stuffed raw chicken products when they exceed a very low level of Salmonella contamination. This announcement is a significant first step that builds on FSIS’s proposed regulatory framework to reduce Salmonella infections linked to poultry products, which was released in October 2022.
“USDA is taking science-based, decisive action to drive down Salmonella illnesses linked to poultry products,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “Today’s proposal represents the first step in a broader effort to control Salmonella contamination in all poultry products, as well as a continued commitment to protecting American consumers from foodborne illness.”
Under this proposal, FSIS would consider any breaded stuffed raw chicken products that include a chicken component that tested positive for Salmonella at 1 colony forming unit (CFU) per gram prior to stuffing and breading to be adulterated. FSIS is also proposing to carry out verification procedures, including sampling and testing of the chicken component of breaded stuffed raw chicken products prior to stuffing and breading, to ensure producing establishments control Salmonella in these products. If the chicken component in these products does not meet this standard, the product lot represented by the sampled component would not be permitted to be used to produce the final breaded stuffed raw chicken products. The chicken component represented by the sampled lot would need to be diverted to a use other than breaded stuffed raw chicken products.
In proposing to declare Salmonella an adulterant in breaded stuffed raw chicken products, FSIS based its decision on several factors, including that since 1998, FSIS and its public health partners have investigated 14 Salmonella outbreaks and approximately 200 illnesses associated with these products. The most recent outbreak was in 2021 and resulted in illnesses across 11 states.
Breaded stuffed raw chicken products are pre-browned and may appear cooked, but the chicken is raw. These products are stuffed with ingredients, such as a raw vegetable, butter, cheese, or meat such as ham. The labeling of these products has undergone significant changes over time to better inform consumers that they are raw and to provide instructions on how to prepare them safely. Despite these efforts to improve labeling, these products continue to be associated with Salmonella illness outbreaks.
A public meeting was held on November 3, 2022, to allow stakeholders the opportunity to provide information that would help focus the development of regulations to implement the policy. To date, more than 1,000 comments have been submitted to this docket.
Concurrently, FSIS is gathering scientific evidence relevant to the approaches presented in the proposed framework.
- The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) has been charged with providing guidance on what types of microbiological criteria FSIS might use to better prevent Salmonella infections associated with poultry products.
- FSIS is also completing a risk profile for pathogenic Salmonella subtypes in poultry and is collaborating on quantitative risk assessments for Salmonella in chicken and turkey that will address key risk management questions associated with this framework.
- FSIS also expanded its exploratory sampling program for young chicken carcasses to generate microbial data to help inform future policies.
- FSIS is transitioning from using presence-based tests to tests that quantify the amount of all Salmonella
FSIS is seeking public comments on the proposed determination and the proposed verification sampling program. Comments may be submitted online via the federal eRulemaking portal.
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