Tuesday, October 21, 2014

USDA needs to decrease high poultry pathogen rates, Government Accountability Office says

The U.S. Department of Agriculture needs to strengthen the way it approaches protecting humans from pathogens in poultry products, says a report by the Government Accountability Office. To do so, USDA "must set strict pathogen limits for poultry products with the highest contamination rates and find ways to measure a poultry plant’s success with these new standards," Kimberly Kindy reports for The Washington Post.

USDA set a standard of 7.5 percent for salmonella on whole chicken carcasses, but "ground poultry products and chicken parts—breasts, wings and drumsticks—have pathogen rates in the double digits, partly because of the cutting and grinding processes that expose the meat to more bacteria," Kindy writes. "A pathogen standard establishes the level of a bacteria that can be found on a poultry product before it is declared unfit for commerce."

"Federal law does not prohibit the sale of poultry products that are contaminated with pathogens, so the department has pledged repeatedly to set limits for the most dangerous pathogens—salmonella and campylobacter," Kindy writes. But the report noted that USDA "missed a Sept. 30 deadline for setting salmonella and campylobacter limits for chicken and turkey parts as well as campylobacter in ground turkey. It also missed a deadline for updating the rate of salmonella allowed in ground poultry, which is currently more than 44 percent for both chicken and turkey."

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said that by the end of 2014 it will issue new pathogen standards and create a way to measure how well poultry plants are meeting the standards, Kindy writes. (Read more)

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