USDA Proposes New Measures to Reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in Poultry Products

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) proposed new federal standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products as well as raw chicken breasts, legs and wings. Development of these new standards is a major step in FSIS’ Salmonella Action Plan, launched in December 2013 to reduce Salmonella illnesses from meat and poultry products.

“Today, we are taking specific aim at making the poultry items that Americans most often purchase safer to eat,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This is a meaningful, targeted step that could prevent tens of thousands of illnesses each year.”

“These new standards, as well as improved testing patterns, will have a major impact on public health,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “The proposed changes are another way we’re working to meet the ever-changing food safety landscape and better protect Americans from foodborne illness.”

“Getting more germs out of the chicken and turkey we eat is an important step in protecting people from foodborne illness,” said Robert V. Tauxe, MD, deputy director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I look forward to seeing fewer Americans get sick as a result of these proposed changes.”

A pathogen reduction performance standard is the measure that FSIS uses to assess the food safety performance of facilities that prepare meat and poultry products. By making the standards for ground poultry tougher to meet, ground poultry products nationwide will have less contamination and therefore result in fewer foodborne illnesses. FSIS implemented performance standards for whole chickens in 1996 but has since learned that Salmonella levels increase as chicken is further processed into parts. Poultry parts like breasts, wings and others represent 80 percent of the chicken available for Americans to purchase. By creating a standard for chicken parts, and by performing regulatory testing at a point closer to the final product, FSIS can greatly reduce consumer exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter.

FSIS’ science-based risk assessment estimates that implementation of these standards would lead to an average of 50,000 prevented illnesses annually. FSIS intends to evaluate comments for 60 days and announce final standards and an implementation date this spring. The federal register notice is available on FSIS’ website at

For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is proposing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 30 percent reduction in illnesses from Salmonella. For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is proposing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to reduce illness from Campylobacter by at least 19 and as much as 37 percent.

FSIS plans to use routine sampling throughout the year rather than infrequently sampling on consecutive days to assess whether establishments’ processes are effectively addressing Salmonella and, where applicable, Campylobacter on poultry carcasses and other products derived from these carcasses.


Bio Illumination Technology is Targeting Listeria Now and Poised to Take on E. Coli and Salmonella

Source: Laurel Maloy, contributing author, Food Online

Currently, the only way to diagnose Listeria is to grow cellular cultures, a time-consuming, cumbersome, and expensive process. The testing procedure requires the collection of random samples from the food, as well as from food contact surfaces. In the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) guidelines, the list of possible food contact surfaces is extensive.

FSIS also does not personally collect these samples, but relies on the farms and facilities to collect these random samples and forward them for testing.

In the event of illness or death, the hunt begins for the Listeria-contaminated food, a tracking process that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is designed to improve upon.

The fact, however, remains; this testing is done after the fact. Illness or death was the precursor for the processor. But, what if there was a quick, efficient process by which Listeria could be identified before it ever reached the consumer?

According to Sample6, a Boston-based company, its Bio Illumination Platform is the answer. Professor Tim Lu and Dr. Michael Koeris, the developers of this pathogen diagnostic system, say it can detect a single cell in just a few hours.

The innovative process utilizes bacteriophages, or phages, to inject pathogenic bacteria with an enzyme. The enzyme, when introduced to pathogenic bacteria, reprograms it to illuminate intensely, even when only a small sampling of cells is present.

The current assay is for Listeria detection only, though Lu has stated it can easily be modified for targeting other pathogens. The bacteriophage for Listeria will not, for example, attack E. coli, and can discriminate between pathogenic bacteria and the possible multitudes of harmless bacteria in the same sample. Lu says, “Phages are the most abundant biological particle on Earth. Since they have coevolved with bacteria for eons, nature provides a rich database of phages which target desired bacteria. Thus, by sourcing from nature, we can adapt the platform to other pathogens and applications.”

The process is almost ridiculously easy. Workers swab the food and then use a specialized machine to detect any light coming from the sample. Easy and quick, this test can be done in the field, in the plant, or in the warehouse, preventing contaminated food from making its way to consumers’ tables.

For the past six months several of Sample6’s clients have been field-testing the Bio Illumination Platform. Upon its certification, this technology will be available to all food processors, eventually being expanded to include assays for the detection of E. coli and Salmonella.