National Steak and Poultry has recalled about 1,976,089 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products over concerns of bacterial pathogen survival in its products. According to FSIS, the product was adulterated due to “possible undercooking”. The expanded recall (the original recall included more than 17,000 pounds of product) was a result of a food service customer compliant to an establishment on November 28 that a product appeared to be undercooked. The products of concern were produced from August 20 through November 30, 2016.
FSIS has provided a complete list of the expanded recall products on its website. There have been no reports of adverse events due to consumption of the products, but consumers are being urged to discard or return the items.
The USDA has finalized federal standards to lower the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and poultry (including raw chicken breasts, legs and wings, which comprise about 80% of the chicken that American’s purchase). FSIS updated its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and will also start posting food safety performance about companies online.
“This approach to poultry inspection is based on science, supported by strong data, and will truly improve public health,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza in an agency press release. “The new performance standards will complement the many other proactive, prevention-based food policies that we’ve put in place in recent years to make America’s supply of meat and poultry safer to eat.”
Intended to achieve at least a 30% reduction in Salmonella illnesses, a pathogen reduction performance standard for chicken parts, ground chicken and ground turkey is being finalized by FSIS. It is doing the same to achieve a 32% reduction in illnesses from Campylobacter in chicken parts and ground chicken. FSIS estimates a low prevalence of Campylobacter in ground turkey and is thus aiming for a 19% reduction.
“Over the past seven years, USDA has put in place tighter and more strategic food safety measures than ever before for meat and poultry products. We have made strides in modernizing every aspect of food safety inspection, from company record keeping, to labeling requirements, to the way we perform testing in our labs,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in the release. “These new standards, in combination with greater transparency about poultry companies’ food safety performance and better testing procedures, will help prevent tens of thousands of foodborne illnesses every year, reaching our Healthy People 2020 goals.”
McDonald’s – the world’s largest fast food chain – today announced that it is committing to serving chicken raised without antibiotics used in human medicine in all of their U.S. restaurants within two years.
This comes on the heels of new leadership for the company. Steve Easterbrook began as CEO of McDonald’s on Monday, and brings to the role a legacy of healthier food and environmental initiatives within the company’s United Kingdom division.
“We’re listening to our customers,” Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald’s North American supply chain, told Reuters. She said the company is working with its domestic chicken suppliers, including Tyson Foods Inc, to make the transition.
Today’s announcement marks a big step forward in protecting the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics for people, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Jonathan Kaplan, director of NRDC’s Food and Agriculture program, says that “by the country’s largest fast food chain committing to working with their suppliers to keep these drugs out of the barns used to raise the chickens for their nuggets, salads and sandwiches, they are setting the bar for the entire fast food industry. (This) may be at a tipping point for better antibiotic stewardship in the poultry industry.”
Whenever an antibiotic is administered, scientists and public health experts worry that it can kill weaker bacteria and enable the strongest to survive and multiply. Frequent use of low-dose antibiotics, a practice used by some meat producers, can intensify that effect. This can support the development of so-called superbugs, who develop cross-resistance to critical, medically important antibiotics. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such superbugs are linked to an estimated 23,000 human deaths and 2 million illnesses every year in the United States, and up to $20 billion in direct healthcare costs.