Richard L. Lobb
— The chicken industry will continue its “tremendous efforts” to meet the challenge of food safety, an advisor to the National Chicken Council said today as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service announced that it will change microbiological standards that have been in effect since 1998. The standards address Salmonella and Campylobacter prevalence on raw chickens, or the percentages of raw chickens being processed in a particular plant that have Salmonella or Campylobacter on them to any detectable degree.
“Industry has already done an outstanding job of improving the microbiological profile of raw products and will strive to do even better,” said Dr. Scott M. Russell, a microbiologist and professor of poultry processing at the University of Georgia and science advisor to NCC. “I personally have witnessed and been part of the tremendous efforts the industry has made to meet the challenge of ensuring food safety, and I know these efforts will continue.”
USDA has monitored poultry plants for Salmonella since the 1990s. In the most recently published reports, for the third quarter of 2010, an average of 7.4 percent of chicken carcasses at processing plants nationwide tested positive for detectable levels of Salmonella. The actual experience in processing plants is believed to be somewhat lower since the government tends to conduct more sampling in plants with higher Salmonella results. The new USDA performance standard is 7.5 percent.
The FSIS notice adopts a Campylobacter standard for the first time. The new standard is that no more than 10.4 percent of raw chickens sampled should have Campylobacter jejuni, C lari, and/or C. coli on them. The samples will be taken at the same time as the Salmonella samples are collected.
“For consumers, the bottom line is that chicken is safe when properly cooked and handled, and that the chicken producers and processors are continually working to make them safer.” Dr. Russell added. “Instructions for safe handling and cooking are printed on every package of meat and poultry sold in the United States.” Additional food safety information is available from sources such as www.fightbac.org and www.befoodsafe.gov
The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for more than 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.