A New USDA Initiative Is Fighting Salmonella Contamination In Chicken

The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently announced that it would now consider Salmonella an adulterant in stuffed and breaded raw chicken products. This move is the latest in the agency's efforts to combat foodborne illnesses in the U.S.

According to U.S. Legal, an adulterated food is any food that "is generally, impure, unsafe, or unwholesome." The USDA says that by declaring Salmonella an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products, it will be able to ensure highly contaminated products will not make it to market and make people sick.

The Mayo Clinic notes that Salmonella is a bacterial disease that is most often spread through contaminated water or food. It can also be spread through cross contamination of raw foods that occurs when cutting surfaces are misused or aren't properly cleaned. It can also occur when improperly rinsing or washing meats at home, and by consuming undercooked meats

The USDA notes that stuffed and breaded raw poultry has been responsible for as many as 14 outbreaks and more than 200 illnesses in the U.S. since 1998. It claims this is because while the products appear pre-cooked, they are only treated with enough heat to set the batter onto its surface. The products remain raw, and improved labeling practices have been ineffective at reducing illnesses. According to the CDC, these types of products were most recently responsible for 36 illnesses and 12 hospitalizations in 2021.

Breaded and raw chicken products to be further regulated

According to the USDA's announcement, declaring salmonella an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products will allow it to use regulatory action to prevent outbreaks. The FSIS is recommending that a product be subject to these actions any time it contains more than one colony forming unit (CFU) of salmonella per gram. The announcement describes this as "a very low level" of contamination.

"Food safety is at the heart of everything FSIS does," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "That mission will guide us as this important first step launches a broader initiative to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry in the U.S."

The USDA originally announced a coordinated effort to reduce salmonella infections in poultry last October. This new announcement is the latest step taken by the agency. It plans to also unveil a new strategy for this effort in October after conducting conversations with stakeholders. It will then hold a public meeting to review the plan in November.