Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new pathogen standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in chicken and turkey.
The senators urged USDA in April 2014 to establish strong pathogen standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter. The department estimates that the standards, which had not been updated since the late 1990s, will lead to a reduction in the number of Salmonella and Campylobacter illnesses attributed to poultry products by 30 and 19 percent, respectively.
“American consumers should not have to worry about whether the food they eat will make them sick, which is why the new standards are a much-needed step forward. They will help save lives and prevent an estimated 50,000 foodborne illnesses annually,” said Senator Feinstein. “We have not significantly reduced the number of foodborne illnesses in years, in large part due to outdated standards. The meat industry has already demonstrated its ability to reduce contamination rates, and I’m confident that it will successfully adapt to the new standards to improve public health.”
“I am pleased to hear that the USDA is taking proactive steps to address the risk of foodborne illness by establishing new performance standards for poultry products, including poultry parts,” said Senator Durbin. “I look forward to continuing work with USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and my Senate colleagues to ensure that that food American families find on store shelves and put on their dinner tables is safe. Delivering on that promise means taking steps to address the fragmented nature of our current food safety system, in addition to establishing effective food safety standards.”
“These new pathogen standards and enhanced testing patterns are a significant step forward for food safety in America,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of Americans, and I commend the USDA for acting with all of our best interests in mind to protect our food supply.”
The standards will require Salmonella contamination rates of no more than 25 percent for ground chicken and no more than 13.5 percent for ground turkey. In contrast, the old standards allow 44.6 percent contamination for ground chicken and 49.9 percent for ground turkey.
For chicken parts, the standards will require Salmonella contamination rates of no more than 15.4 percent and Campylobacter contamination rates of no more than 7.7 percent. The standards will also require Campylobacter contamination rates of no more than 7.7 percent for ground chicken and no more than 1.9 percent for ground turkey. Currently, there are no federal standards for pathogens in chicken parts or for Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey.
USDA will accept public comments on the standards for 60 days and they will go into effect later this year.