USDA’s action to declare Salmonella an adulterant in raw chicken products

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) has recently announced plans to declare Salmonella an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products.    

This action is the first step of a broader initiative to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry in the US. As soon as it will become effective, FSIS will have the authority to stop contaminated products, preventing their entrance into the market.    

Breaded and stuffed raw chicken products are found in the freezer section and, even if they appear cooked, they are only heat-treated, therefore, they contain raw poultry. Since 1998, these types of products have been associated with up to 14 outbreaks and approximately 200 illnesses. The efforts to improve the labeling with warning captions seem to be not effective at reducing consumer illnesses.  

Breaded and stuffed raw chicken products will be considered adulterated when they exceed a very low level of Salmonella contamination and would be subject to regulatory action. FSIS is planning to propose a limit of 1 colony forming unit (CFU) of Salmonella per gram for these products. This level is believed to be able to significantly reduce the risk of illness linked to the consumption of breaded raw chicken products. FSIS will evaluate the possibility to use a different standard for adulteration, such as zero tolerance or one based on specific serotypes.  

The notice is planned to be published on FSIS’ Federal Register & Rulemaking page in the fall, then, FSIS will wait for public comments. When the proposal is finalized, FSIS will announce its final implementation plans and the date it will begin routine testing for Salmonella in these products.