USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service on Wednesday proposed safety standards for chicken parts like breasts, legs and wings and ground chicken to reduce presence of Salmonella and Campylobacter.
Development of these new standards is part of FSIS' Salmonella Action Plan, which was launched in December 2013, to reduce Salmonella illnesses from meat and poultry products.
The new proposal is sparked by FSIS understanding that Salmonella levels increase as chicken is processed into parts. Parts, like wings, breasts and legs, represent 80% of the chicken available for Americans to purchase.
For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is proposing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 30% reduction in illnesses from Salmonella. For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is proposing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to reduce illness from Campylobacter by at least 19 and as much as 37%.
By creating a standard for chicken parts, and by performing regulatory testing at a point closer to the final product, FSIS can greatly reduce consumer exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter, the agency said.
"These new standards, as well as improved testing patterns, will have a major impact on public health," said USDA deputy under secretary for food safety Al Almanza. "The proposed changes are another way we're working to meet the ever-changing food safety landscape and better protect Americans from foodborne illness."
FSIS plans to use routine sampling throughout the year rather than infrequently sampling on consecutive days to assess whether establishments' processes are effectively addressing Salmonella and, where applicable, Campylobacter on poultry carcasses and other products derived from these carcasses.
FSIS' science-based risk assessment estimates that implementation of these standards would lead to an average of 50,000 prevented illnesses annually.
FSIS intends to evaluate comments for 60 days and announce final standards and an implementation date this spring. The federal register notice is available on FSIS' website.