WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service released a comprehensive action plan detailing the agency's strategy to address Salmonella prevention in meat and poultry products.

A top priority highlighted in “The Salmonella Action Plan” is USDA's initiative to modernize the poultry slaughter inspection system. The much-debated plan calls for company employees in most chicken and turkey slaughter plants to check eviscerated carcasses for visual defects and sorting out those that are unlikely to pass federal inspection. A single federal inspector would be stationed at the end of the line, just before the chill tank, to conduct a final visual inspection. USDA believes that focusing inspectors' duties solely on food safety will prevent roughly 5,200 foodborne illnesses annually.

Other action-plan strategies include enhancing Salmonella sampling and testing by using the latest scientific information available in conjunction with emerging trends in foodborne illness. Inspectors’ ability to detect Salmonella earlier will improve with more information about processing facilities' performance history and better methods for assessing in-plant conditions.

Finally, FSIS plans to take aggressive actions to prevent Salmonella contamination of meat and poultry products. These actions include:

• establishing new performance standards;
• developing new strategies for inspection and throughout the full farm-to-table continuum;
• addressing all potential sources of Salmonella; and
• focusing the Agency’s education and outreach tools on Salmonella.

“Far too many Americans are sickened by Salmonella every year,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen. “The aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer.”