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USDA Announces New Regulations for Salmonella

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U.S. Department of Agriculture | Image by Ray Larsen/Shutterstock

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Salmonella is now considered an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

In a press release dated August 1, the FSIS claimed they would be able to prevent the sale of severely contaminated goods that could make people ill by designating Salmonella as an adulterant in these products.

“Food safety is at the heart of everything FSIS does,” stated 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.”

Products made from breaded and stuffed raw chicken have been linked to 14 outbreaks and about 200 illnesses since 1998. They include a variety of frozen foods found in supermarkets, such as chicken cordon bleu and chicken Kyiv, which appear to be fully cooked but in reality have just been “heat-treated” to set the batter or breading onto what amounts to raw poultry.

People often undercook these products, assuming the chicken has already been cooked through.

Under the new USDA designation, raw chicken products that exceed a low level of Salmonella contamination would be subject to regulatory action and considered adulterated.

“Today’s announcement is an important moment in U.S. food safety because we are declaring Salmonella an adulterant in a raw poultry product,” said Sandra Eskin, USDA deputy undersecretary for food safety, on Monday. “This is just the beginning of our efforts to improve public health.”

According to Bloomberg, the poultry industry has invested a lot of money into refining safety precautions in an attempt to limit the amount of Salmonella present in food products.

Ashley Peterson, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the National Chicken Council, told the news outlet that the “abrupt shift in longstanding policy … has the potential to shutter processing plants, cost jobs, and take safe food and convenient products off shelves.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an estimated 420 deaths, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 1.35 million infections due to Salmonella per year in the U.S. The majority of these illnesses are caused by consuming food. The agency stated Salmonella bacteria are present in approximately one out of every 25 packages of chicken sold in grocery stores.

Salmonella typically causes diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps in those who become ill. After infection, symptoms often appear between six hours to six days later. Illness can last four to seven days.

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