Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finalized new federal standards that will reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses from poultry. The new standards are targeted at Salmonella and Campylobacter in chicken parts and ground chicken and turkey products. FSIS will use these new pathogen standards to assess the food safety performance of establishments that process these types of poultry products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that Salmonella and Campylobacter cause nearly two million foodbome illnesses, 27,500 hospitalizations, and over 450 deaths each year. Further, the CDC reports current food safety regulations have not reduced the number of illnesses caused by Salmonella since 2000.
“Everyone seated at their kitchen table needs to be confident that we’re doing all we can to keep our food and our families safe,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The new federal food safety standards from USDA are vital to improving food safety and safeguarding our nation’s public health. Standards that help food safety inspectors monitor the types of poultry products that many Americans purchase every week is a great step forward. We need to continue strengthening regulations to reduce foodborne illnesses.”
“American consumers should not have to worry about whether the food they eat will make them sick,” said Senator Feinstein. “The new standards, which will prevent 50,000 foodborne illnesses each year, are an important step forward. I urge USDA to take the next step and update pathogen standards for beef and pork products. Pathogen standards should be regularly reviewed and revised to protect public health.”
“These new, stronger pathogen standards for poultry products will protect public health and improve food safety for consumers nationwide,” said Senator Durbin. “I look forward to continuing work with USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and my Senate colleagues to ensure that that the food American families find on store shelves and serve 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.”
Gillibrand, Feinstein and Durbin have pushed for updated and improved pathogen standards to better match the variety of poultry products consumers purchase today. The new pathogen standards, sampling methods, and public notification regarding food company performance will provide a more thorough assessment of a company’s food safety system and whether additional measures to ensure food safety are needed.
In 2014, Gillibrand, Feinstein and Durbin addressed their concerns to the Office of Management and Budget on the alarming rates of foodborne illness due to the high levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination on poultry products. Last summer, the Senators in a joint letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture urged for new performance standards to safeguard public health and decrease contamination and the risk of foodborne illnesses.
The new 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 1.9 percent for ground chicken and no more than 1.9 percent for ground turkey. Previously, there were no federal standards for pathogens in chicken parts or for Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey.
As part of their ongoing efforts to improve food safety, the Senators have also asked the USDA to update pathogen standards for beef and pork products.