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USDA finalizes pathogen standards for poultry

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Thursday it had finalized standards to reduce salmonella and campylobacter in chicken and turkey, and updated testing procedures.

Under the new rules, no more than 15.4% of chicken parts like breasts and wings can test positive for salmonella and no more than 7.7% can test positive for campylobacter at poultry facilities. The maximum acceptable positive tests for ground chicken are 25% for salmonella and 1.9% for campylobacter. For ground turkey, the maximums are 13.5% for salmonella and 1.9% for campylobacter.

Poultry parts make up 80% of the chicken available for purchase in the U.S. The USDA estimates these standards will prevent an average of 50,000 illnesses a year.

FSIS also finalized testing procedures for poultry facilities. The agency will test high volume establishments weekly and lower volume establishments less frequently. It will also post testing results online.

“Over the past seven years, USDA has put in place tighter and more strategic food safety measures than ever before for meat and poultry products. We have made strides in modernizing every aspect of food safety inspection, from company record keeping, to labeling requirements, to the way we perform testing in our labs,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “These new standards, in combination with greater transparency about poultry companies’ food safety performance and better testing procedures, will help prevent tens of thousands of foodborne illnesses every year, reaching our Healthy People 2020 goals.”

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