STATEMENT: USDA takes step toward addressing salmonella in poultry

Media Contacts
Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Taran Volckhausen

Former Communications Associate, The Public Interest Network

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced on Friday that it wants to look at new ways to reduce salmonella in poultry products and cut down on the number of people who get sick every year. 

The USDA is proposing a number of strategies, including testing incoming flocks, better process monitoring and adopting standards for final products. It plans to hold a virtual public meeting on November 3 to receive public feedback.

Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the USDA said salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections in Americans every year, and 26,500 of those people are hospitalized. Among the overall number, 23% stem from poultry consumption.

This is the latest effort by the USDA, which two months ago said it’s declaring salmonella as a contaminant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products. 

In response, Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog with U.S. PIRG Education Fund, said: 

“It’s embarrassing and irresponsible that we as a society have known this problem has existed for years and it’s only now being addressed. The CDC says  one in every 25 packages of chicken at the grocery store is contaminated with salmonella. We’ve watched hundreds of thousands of people get sick every year – people who had no idea the food they were feeding their families was unsafe.

“A U.S. PIRG Education Fund analysis found that one in seven food recalls last year stemmed from salmonella contamination. Food is recalled after the problem is discovered. What about the problems we don’t know about?

“Consumers need to be able to trust that the food they buy in stores and restaurants is safe. This is another step on a long road to help that happen.”

Matt Wellington, director of U.S. PIRG Education Fund Public Health Campaigns, said: 

“Any salmonella infection can be serious, especially for those at higher risk such as kids. It’s potentially even more dangerous if antibiotic-resistant salmonella bacteria causes the infection. Research has shown that conventionally raised poultry is more likely to harbor multi-drug resistant salmonella than poultry raised without antibiotics. Meat and poultry producers should eliminate antibiotic overuse on farms to help stave off resistant superbugs that can make us sick.

“It’s important that the USDA is finally recognizing that meat companies need to address salmonella on farms. We are trying to get meat companies to do the same about antibiotic resistance.”