FSIS plans to make Salmonella an adulterant in certain raw poultry products; previews other policies

FSIS has announced plans to declare Salmonella an adulterant in not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) breaded and stuffed chicken products that may appear ready-to-eat (RTE).  The change is not yet effective. FSIS has also highlighted several planned changes to raw poultry processing requirements. 

On Monday, August 1, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) made two key announcements about Salmonella in raw poultry:

  • FSIS announced plans to declare Salmonella an adulterant in NRTE breaded and stuffed chicken products that may appear RTE.1

  • FSIS provided insight into its planned Salmonella framework for raw poultry, which FSIS said will include Salmonella testing at live receiving, enhancements to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, and updates to finished product standards.

Both announcements focus on planned future policy changes; neither change appears to take effect immediately.

The planned changes were announced through a series of press releases, constituent updates, and in a speech by Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin at the International Association for Food Protection conference on Monday, August 1, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She explained that both policies would be more formally announced and explained in the Federal Register sometime in the Fall.  

Salmonella as an Adulterant

Under the planned policy change, FSIS intends to consider Salmonella as an adulterant in NRTE breaded and stuffed chicken products that may appear RTE. This category includes many frozen chicken cordon bleu and chicken Kiev products, for example. Although the announcement was made Monday, details will be left to a future Federal Register publication. Deputy Under Secretary Eskin indicated FSIS was considering adopting a threshold for adulteration and identified a planned target of 1 CFU/g, although in a press release FSIS indicated it would also accept comments on other approaches, such as a zero-tolerance approach or a serotype-specific approach.

Historically, Salmonella has not been considered an adulterant in raw poultry products because proper cooking destroys the pathogen. The planned policy change, if implemented, would reflect a significant change in how FSIS regulates pathogens in raw poultry, albeit for a narrow product category.  In explaining the change, FSIS drew analogies to its previous decision to declare E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant in raw non-intact beef, explaining that the agency views the product-pathogen pairs as presenting similar risks. 

FSIS does not appear to be making any immediate policy changes based on this announcement. Rather, according to an agency press release, FSIS plans to issue a Federal Register notice this Fall detailing its thinking and soliciting comments on its approach as well as on final implementation and approaches to verification testing.

Salmonella Framework

For the past year, FSIS has indicated it plans to revisit its approach to Salmonella through a new Salmonella Framework. In her speech, Deputy Under Secretary Eskin provided insight into at least part of that framework. She explained that the framework will include several changes to the way FSIS oversees raw poultry processing. Specifically, she identified three areas of focus:

  • Testing for incoming poultry flocks;

  • Changing HACCP to reduce contamination during processing, and possibly requiring that Salmonella be treated as a hazard reasonably likely to occur at receiving; and

  • Creating enforceable finished product standards for Salmonella.

The details of these parts of the framework are unclear, and FSIS plans to publish more specifics about its planned approach in the Fall. 

Next steps

We will continue to monitor these policy developments closely. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

 

 

Authored by Brian D. Eyink and Connie Potter.

References
1  USDA Announces Action to Declare Salmonella an Adulterant in Breaded Stuffed Raw Chicken Products, Press Release No. 0167.22 (Aug. 1, 2022)

 

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