Salmonella Poisoning Targeted By New USDA Poultry Standards

Federal regulators have released new rules aimed at reducing the risk of salmonella food poisoning contamination by the poultry industry. 

The new poultry compliance guidance (pdf) was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month, and details how the poultry suppliers can mitigate contamination from both Salmonella and Campylobacter in the pre and post-harvest production process.

The new standard would hold chicken and turkey suppliers more accountable for tainted poultry by reducing the number of samples that are allowed to test positive for the two bacteria. USDA officials say they hope the new guidance will cut down on the number of Salmonella food poisoning outbreaks caused by tainted poultry.

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Salmonella is a type of bacteria that attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing mild to severe food poisoning. For most healthy adults, symptoms of food poisoning from salmonella typically resolve after a few days or weeks. However, young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems have an increased risk of suffering severe food poisoning after ingesting the bacteria. If not properly treated, some cases of salmonella poisoning can lead to hospitalization, dehydration or death.

Campylobacter is another type of bacteria that causes campylobacteriosis that can cause diarrhea, periodontitis, cramps, fever and pain. It can be spread through contaminated food or water, by eating raw meat, through sexual contact or fecal-oral transmission. In most cases, it is treated by replenishing the victim’s liquids and electrolytes.

The new standards are the first ever governing Campylobacter prevention. They address, primarily, pre-harvest practices which regulators say would cut down on the risk of either bacteria being present in chicken carcasses; especially young birds sold as “roasters.” Recommendations include providing birds with treated water aimed at breaking down food, so that it does not remain in the gut after slaughter, a reduction in the number of testing samples that can turn up positive for contamination and other measures.

“There is no more important mission at USDA than ensuring the safety of our food, and we are working every day as part of the President’s Food Safety Working Group to lower the danger of foodborne illness,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The new standards announced today mark an important step in our efforts to protect consumers by further reducing the incidence of Salmonella and opening a new front in the fight against Campylobacter.”

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