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USDA Tries to Stem Salmonella Epidemic

Jan 29, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Salmonella serotypes account for 38.6 percent of all human food borne illnesses, according to a 2006 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, making it the most common human food borne pathogen.  In response to the growing epidemic and to advance efforts to significantly reduce human cases of salmonellosis, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced new policies for the Agency’s salmonella verification sampling program and related activities in meat and poultry establishments to be implemented March 28th this year:

  • FSIS website publication of completed verification sample results for establishments which inconsistently meet salmonella performance standards, beginning with those from young chicken slaughter establishments (there has been an increase in positive rates and serotypes found in these products).
  • A voluntary incentive-based program for poultry establishments meant to provide data on attribution of human illness to FSIS-regulated products.
  • Increase the agency's use of targeted sampling approaches and collaborative serotype and subtype data.


In February 2006, FSIS introduced a comprehensive initiative to reduce the presence of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products that includes concentrating resources at establishments with higher levels of Salmonella and changes to the reporting and use of FSIS verification test results.  FSIS developed the Salmonella Initiative Program to offer specific waivers to Category 1 establishments to test new procedures, equipment, or processing techniques to facilitate improvements in the control of the Salmonella.

Category 2 establishments’ results are above half but do not exceed the current standard for one or both of their most recent samples, while Category 3 establishments exceed current standards.  Category 1 establishments offer the lowest Salmonella rates sample results at or below half of the current standards.  Participating establishments must collect samples for microbial analysis on each line during each shift on each day of production.  Additional samples will provide the Agency with key microbial data on attribution of human illness to FSIS-regulated products.

The FSIS is seeking comments, which need to be submitted by February 27th.  Comments must identify FSIS and the docket number FSIS-2006-0034 and can be mailed to: fsis.regulationscomments@fsis.usda.gov.

Currently, the FSIS schedules approximately 75 new verification sample sets monthly for Salmonella in raw products.  Under the new policies, FSIS is restructuring its sampling and testing initiatives to include random sampling at all Category 1 establishments to ensure they are maintaining performance in controlling Salmonella; the FSIS recognizes that ground beef establishments producing less than 1,000 pounds of product per day account for a large portion of the sampling selection although they account for a very small portion of the raw ground beef supply.  To more effectively allocate resources, the FSIS will reduce the sampling frequency at these establishments and test samples for Salmonella already collected for E. coli O157:H7 sampling.  The FSIS will also identify all sub-groups of raw classes of product not currently tested in full verification sets and each sub-group of establishments will be sampled.  For example, all ratite or religious-exempt operations will be identified and sampled, at least quarterly.


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