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Chick-News.com Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

USDA to Declare Salmonella as an Adulterant in Breaded Raw Chicken Products

08/04/2022

The USDA-FSIS intends to declare the presence of Salmonella in frozen raw-breaded chicken products to be an adulterant. Sandra Eskin Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety commented, “Today’s announcement is an important moment in U.S. food safety.”  She added, “This is just the beginning of our efforts to improve public health.”

 

In the U.S. breaded stuffed raw chicken products have caused fourteen outbreaks since 1998 although the occurrence of infection is probably higher than has been diagnosed and confirmed. In addition, cases attributed to suboptimal cooking have occurred in Canada and the EU. With respect to raw frozen breaded chicken products, infection has not been limited by prominent label instructions advising consumers to cook product to 165 F in an oven and not to heat in a microwave.

 

USDA has yet to determine whether the regulation relating to adulteration will be based on a zero tolerance or will be restricted to specific serovars of Salmonella enterica. The most likely response by the industry to the intended action on raw breaded product will be to market only cooked breaded items with appropriate bacterial monitoring.

 

The question arises as to whether the intended action is a response to the specific and defined problem of raw breaded chicken or whether it is the thin edge of a wedge moving towards declaration of specified Salmonella as adulterants in all poultry. Perhaps the action is a compromise response to the long ignored petition by Attorney Bill Marler. In the unlikely outcome of a zero tolerance standard for up to twenty serovars the declaration would be a disaster for the chicken and turkey industries, given the absence of any current pre-harvest or post-harvest method of absolutely eliminating rather than suppressing Salmonella.

 

Irradiation, currently rejected by consumers is a highly effective treatment, that if applied correctly will absolutely eliminate Salmonella contamination. Tray packs and IQF portions could be treated by electron beam installations, analogous to x-ray, and would be compatible with existing production layouts. Irradiation of bulk product would require cobalt60 installations predicating a separate and expensive facility.


 
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