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Salmonella Programme Seeks Feedback

by 5m Editor
29 January 2008, at 2:17pm

WASHINGTON, US - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced new policies and practices for the Agency's Salmonella verification sampling program and related activities in meat and poultry establishments.

In Feb. 2006, FSIS introduced a comprehensive initiative to reduce the presence of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products. The initiative includes concentrating resources at establishments with higher levels of Salmonella and changes to the reporting and use of FSIS Salmonella verification test results.

In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Salmonella serotypes accounted for 38.6 percent of human foodborne illnesses, making it the most common human foodborne pathogen. FSIS is taking these actions to advance efforts to achieve the Agency's public health goal of significantly reducing human cases of salmonellosis. FSIS uses performance standards in establishments that slaughter or produce certain classes of products to measure the effectiveness of industry in controlling the contamination of raw meat and poultry products with disease-causing bacteria.

On March 28, 2008, FSIS will post on its Web site completed verification sample set results from establishments in Category 2 or Category 3 beginning with results from young chicken slaughter establishments since there has been an increase in percent positive rates and serotypes of human health concern found in these products. Category 2 establishments are those with sample set results above half but not exceeding the current standard for one or both of their most recent sample sets and Category 3 are those that are exceeding the current standards. Category 1 establishments have the lowest Salmonella rates of the three categories with sample set results at or below half of the current standards.

On Nov. 16, 2007, FSIS posted the third quarter progress report on Salmonella testing of selected raw meat and poultry products. This report provides preliminary data for the months July - September 2007 by category that showed significant success, particularly in raw poultry classes. Eighty-four percent of turkey slaughter establishments are now Category 1, the other 16 percent are in Category 2. These numbers represent significant improvement from the first quarter of 2007 where 53 percent of establishments were in Category 1, 38 percent in Category 2 and three percent at Category 3. For broilers, the percentage of establishments in Category 1 is 73 percent and the percentage of establishments in Category 2 is 23 percent. This figure is up by ten percent from the first quarter of 2007. This is compared with only 35.5 percent of broiler establishments performing in Category 1 after the first quarter of 2006.

Since the Feb. 2006 Notice, FSIS has developed the Salmonella Initiative Program to offer specific waivers to Category 1 establishments, those performing at half or less than the current standards, to test new procedures, equipment or processing techniques to facilitate improvements in the ongoing control of the Salmonella.

Participating establishments must collect samples for microbial analysis on each line during each shift on every day of production. These additional samples will provide the Agency with key microbial data on attribution of human illness to FSIS-regulated products.

Currently, FSIS schedules approximately 75 new verification sample sets each month for Salmonella in raw products. Under the new policies, FSIS is restructuring its sampling and testing initiatives. This will include random sampling at all Category 1 establishments to ensure they are maintaining performance in controlling Salmonella. Additionally, 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, FSIS plans to reduce the sampling frequency at these establishments and test samples for Salmonella that are already collected for E. coli O157:H7 sampling. FSIS will identify all sub-groups of raw classes of product not currently tested in full verification sets. Each sub-group of establishments will be sampled. For example, all ratite or religious-exempt operations will be identified and sampled, at least quarterly.

In 2007, FSIS signed a cooperative agreement with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service to ensure that identifying subtype information on Salmonella isolates (PFGE patterns) that FSIS collects is compared with information about isolates associated with human illness in PulseNet, a database maintained by the CDC. Sharing subtype information will enable FSIS and other stakeholders to determine which Salmonella serotypes of human health concern are not only appearing in FSIS-regulated products but are more likely to be associated with cases of human illness.

FSIS will schedule a Food Safety Assessment at any establishment with either a medium or high level of serotypes of human health concern found in the most recent verification sample set or if an establishment fails a set before it has been completed.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on Salmonellosis by clicking here.

5m Editor