The plan includes modernising an “outdated” poultry slaughter inspection system as a top priority, focusing inspectors’ duties on food safety issues, with new training guidance, testing procedures, disease-tracking and prevention systems.
It also includes plans to detect and remove salmonella in pigmeat products – restarting FSIS-mandated testing, which had lapsed because of previously low contamination rates.
National Chicken Council (NCC) vice-president of communications Tom Super backed the plan, calling on the “USDA to move forward with modernising the poultry inspection system” to help the industry build on its progress in fighting salmonella.
The NCC was seeking opportunities to reduce contamination at the secondary processing stage – such as retail butchers – “that will further decrease salmonella on parts”, said Super. “The safety of our products is our top priority too,” he added.
“[The Salmonella Action Plan] addresses some very specific situations, and may provide valuable information especially for those plants that remove the skin from pork carcases,” said National Pork Producers Council chief veterinarian Dr Liz Wagstrom.
Fall in contamination
However, both experts stressed the action plan followed significant falls in contamination. “The prevalence of salmonella on raw young chicken carcases is down 26% over the first quarter of 2013 and represents a decrease of 55% during the past five years,” Super told Globalmeatnews.com, quoting FSIS figures. “Over the last five years, the prevalence of salmonella on ground chicken has been reduced by 50%. But we are constantly striving to do better,” he added.
Moreover, an FSIS survey for August 2010 to August 2011 on market hogs showed a 2.7% contamination rate at post-chill, down from 8.7% in its first survey from April 1995 to March 1996, added Dr Wagstrom.
A spokesperson for the American Meat Institute said the “US meat and poultry industry shares [USDA’s] concern about salmonella and its impact on public health”. However, the institute asked the FSIS to seek public opinion before implementing the action plan, under the public consultation provisions of the US Administrative Procedure Act.