Poultry Products Sampling

Issues

Poultry Products Sampling

The Breakdown

Poultry products sampling tests are a lab-based set of poultry inspections run by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to ensure that poultry products meet guidelines.

This includes an investigation of a plant’s production processes as well as microbial testing of the not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) poultry products.

  • NRTE poultry products include ground, mechanically separated, or hand- or mechanically-deboned poultry that is further chopped, flaked, minced, or otherwise processed to reduce particle size. NRTE poultry products are not battered or breaded.

Despite increasing outbreaks of Salmonella linked to ground poultry products, the USDA continues to delay a reform of its poultry products sampling processes.

According to the Safe Food Coalition, the following changes are necessary in the USDA poultry inspection process:

  • Plants producing NRTE poultry products should reassess their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans to determine whether they are adequately addressing and controlling microbial hazards such as Salmonella.
  • Plants should consider pre-harvest factors and interventions that may influence microbial contamination levels in poultry products. Based on the results of its inspection checklists, FSIS should take appropriate regulatory action in plants where the agency expresses concern for the integrity of the food safety system.
  • When NRTE poultry or meat products are associated with a foodborne illness outbreak and contain pathogens that are not officially considered adulterants, FSIS should still consider the products linked to the outbreak as adulterated and should conduct appropriate regulatory action.
  • Any products prepared, packed, or held under unsanitary conditions should also be considered adulterated.
  • If, in FSIS traceback activities, it discovers an additional product at another establishment that is linked to an adulterated product, FSIS should also consider that product adulterated.
  • FSIS should grant a petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest to declare certain antibiotic-resistant strains ofSalmonella as adulterants. Following this, FSIS should expand its definition of adulteration to specific strains of Salmonella.
  • FSIS should develop new performance standards for NRTE poultry products for Salmonella and Campylobacter. FSIS’s current approach permits plants that meet 50% or less of the performance standard to be classified as Category 1 plants, but given the recent rises in Salmonella outbreaks, FSIS should apply a more stringent measure of 25% or less of the performance standard for identifying Category 1 plants.
  • FSIS should provide scientific justification on how it intends to use its verification testing program to establish the presence of Salmonella in NRTE poultry products.

Our Position

• Stop Foodborne Illness is an active member of the Safe Food Coalition and supports the coalition’s views.

• Stop believes that a thorough reform of the poultry products sampling process is necessary in order to assure a safe national poultry supply.

• Stop Foodborne Illness also believes that concerns about increasing foodborne illness outbreaks in poultry cannot be properly addressed without restarting the poultry products sampling rule making process.

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