May 27, 2020


US consumer groups call for revamp of poultry safety framework


Two leading US consumer groups are calling on the US Department of Agriculture to make  important changes in its regulations to reduce foodborne illnesses associated with salmonella and campylobacter in poultry.


In comments filed with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Stop Foodborne Illness and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) pointed out that the USDA's 25-year-old regulatory framework lags behind recent advances in science and technology and fails to reflect modern best practices for preventing illnesses caused by pathogens in food.


"To their credit, FSIS, academic experts, and many poultry industry leaders recognise the poultry safety problem and are working on solutions", said Stop Foodborne Illness CEO Mitzi Baum in a news release posted on the organisation's website.


"Consumers rightfully expect, however, that FSIS build today's best practices into its regulatory system so they can become common practices."


One of the key changes that the two consumer groups called for in FSIS rules is making poultry slaughter establishments accountable for minimizing the extent to which live birds entering their facilities are contaminated with dangerous pathogens. 


Another is the replacement of the "currently unenforceable salmonella and campylobacter performance standards with enforceable finished product standards targeting the forms of these bacteria most likely to make people sick".


Control harmful pathogens on farm


"Given all that we now know about how disease spreads from farms into our food system, it is no longer acceptable for safety regulations to stop at the slaughterhouse door", said Sarah Sorscher, CSPI deputy director of regulatory affairs. 


"USDA must work with stakeholders to ensure that harmful pathogens are controlled on the farm, so that sick animals will not spread disease to humans through the food supply."


The two groups said their call for changes in the USDA's regulatory framework is in response to a petition from the law firm Marler Clark LLP asking FSIS to declare salmonella serotypes associated with illness outbreaks to be adulterants under the meat and poultry inspection laws. 


The groups said the petition made a compelling case and should serve as a springboard for reform of the FSIS regulations mandating Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the accompanying pathogen reduction performance standards.


Salmonella and campylobacter together account for more than 70% of the confirmed hospitalisations and deaths attributable to the foodborne pathogens monitored by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in its FoodNet surveillance system, and poultry is a significant contributor to illness, as per Stop Foodborne Illness.