Extra requirements needed from US poultry companies

By Georgi Gyton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Poultry producers will need to carry out their own microbiological testing
Poultry producers will need to carry out their own microbiological testing

Related tags: Food safety, Foodborne illness, Poultry

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is to impose additional requirements on poultry companies in a bid to stamp out foodborne illnesses.

Its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced yesterday that all poultry companies will now be required to take measures to prevent Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination, rather than simply taking action if it occurs.

In another first, poultry facilities will also be required to perform their own microbiological testing at two points in their production process to show that they are controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter. These checks will be in addition to the FSIS’s own checks.

It is believed the new measures will reduce cases of Campylobacter and Salmonella by around 5,000 cases every year.

The New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) - a voluntary measure - is also being introduced, whereby companies will sort their own product for quality defects before presenting it to FSIS inspectors.

The FSIS said the NPIS - a science-based inspection system - would position food safety inspectors throughout poultry facilities in a smarter way, as it will allow them to focus less on route quality assurance tasks, that have little relationship with preventing pathogens, and ‘focus more on strategies that are proven to strengthen food safety’​ it said.

The new system would also mean that inspectors will have more availability to remove birds from the evisceration line for closer examinations, 'take samples for testing, check plant sanitation, verify compliance with food safety plans, observe live birds for signs of disease or mistreatment, and ensuring plants are meeting all applicable regulations'.

Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary, said: "The United States has been relying on a poultry inspection model that dates back to 1957, while rates of foodborne illness due to Salmonella and Campylobacter remain stubbornly high.

"The system we are announcing today imposes stricter requirements on the poultry industry and places our trained inspectors where they can better ensure food is being processed safely. These improvements make use of sound science to modernise food safety procedures and prevent thousands of illnesses each year."

The proposal was first published in January 2012, and has flexed in line with public comment. The FSIS said that in response to public comment, the maximum line speeds for poultry plants that newly adopt the NPIS have remained capped at 140 birds per minute.

Mike Brown, president, National Chicken Council, said he applauded the move to modernise poultry inspection, however he voiced his disappointment at the cap on line speed.

"Regarding line speeds: It is extremely unfortunate and disappointing that politics have trumped sound science, 15 years of food and worker safety data and a successful pilot program with plants operating at 175 birds per minute.

"The rule also goes against global precedent, in which the limiting factors for line speeds are the ability to meet food safety standards, keeping workers safe, and the capability of the equipment to run effectively – not government regulations. Broiler plants in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Belgium and Germany, among others, all operate at line speeds of 200 or more birds per minute."

Revised standards for pathogen reduction performance for poultry, and the first standards for ‘poultry parts’ are expected to be announced later this year, as part of the FSIS’s Salmonella Action Plan, unveiled in December last year.

Related topics: Meat

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