WASHINGTON – A new declaration by the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Aug. 1 stated Salmonella as an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products.
The agency noted that since 1998 breaded and stuffed raw chicken products have been associated with up to 14 outbreaks and approximately 200 illnesses. FSIS said the products in the category are found in the frozen section and include chicken cordon blue or chicken Kiev products.
The products appeared cooked but were heat-treated only to set the batter or breading and products contained raw poultry.
“Today’s announcement is an important moment in US food safety because we are declaring Salmonella an adulterant in a raw poultry product,” said Sandra Eskin, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “This is just the beginning of our efforts to improve public health.
Breaded and stuffed raw chicken products will be observed as adulterated when they exceed a very low level of Salmonella contamination and would be subject to regulatory action. FSIS proposed to set the limit at one colony forming unit (CFU) of Salmonella per gram for these products, a level that the agency believes will significantly reduce the risk of illness from consuming these products.
The agency will also seek comment on whether a different standard for adulteration – such as zero tolerance or one based on specific serotypes – would be more appropriate.
FSIS said it plans to present a proposed framework for its comprehensive strategy to reduce Salmonella illnesses in poultry during October and convene a public meeting to discuss it in November. The notice is expected to publish in the Federal Register during that time period where it can be reviewed and commented on.
When the proposal is finalized, FSIS will announce its definitive implementation plans and the date it will begin routine testing for Salmonella in these products.
Bill Marler, a personal injury lawyer and national expert on foodborne illness litigation, provided his early assessment on the FSIS declaration of the Salmonella adulterant.
“From the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in 1993 to the ConAgra E. coli outbreak in 2002, about 90% of my law firm revenue was E. coli O157:H7 cases linked to hamburger,” Marler said. “Deeming E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant did not change things overnight, but the government, industry and consumers over that decade worked hard to “Put me out of Business, Please.”
“Today, and for the last 20 years, E. coli cases – O157 and/or “the Big Six”- linked to hamburger has been a small and diminishing factor in my practice. It works – ask my accountant.”