Tag Archives: USDA

Tyler Williams
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A Nugget of Welcome News: USDA Adds Salmonella as a Chicken Adulterant

By Tyler Williams
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Tyler Williams

Chicken producers and processors must always pay close attention to listeria and E. coli. Their regulated to-market protocols incorporate intense testing and cleaning standards that help ensure the people who buy chicken sandwiches at fast casual restaurants, chicken fingers at sporting arenas and trays of fresh chicken legs at supermarkets don’t get sick.

The companies stay on top of listeria and E. coli because the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has considered them “adulterants,” or substances that should not be found in meat products, for decades. The federal agency banned listeria in 1987, and in 1994 listed E. coli as an adulterant in the wake of an E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants that sickened 700 people in four states, and led to 171 hospitalizations and four deaths.

All along, however, another prominent bacteria, Salmonella, remained unregulated, despite its proclivity for making people ill—more than a 1.3 million cases of salmonellosis appear in the U.S. every year, leading to about 26,500 hospitalizations and roughly 400 deaths. It is the No. 1 cause for foodborne illness in the U.S., and most cases stem from chicken products.

But earlier this year the USDA announced that it now plans to consider Salmonella an adulterant in some chicken products. The matter is out for public comment now; if the USDA doesn’t change its clear intention to regulate Salmonella, federal food inspectors soon will be testing for it in select chicken products.

The chicken industry opposes the measure. In a news release issued shortly after the FSIS’ August announcement, the National Chicken Council (NCC) pointed toward the 1957 Poultry Products Inspection Act, which did not include Salmonella as an adulterant, as a set of standards worth upholding today.

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Well, a lot has changed in industrial agriculture during the past 65 years, and that includes a dramatic expansion of chicken farming and consumption across the country. In the 1950s, the average American ate about 16 pounds of chicken a year, compared to 56 pounds of beef and 50 pounds of pork. But by this year, Americans were eating close to 112 pounds of chicken a year, along with 56 pounds of beef and 50 pounds of pork. In terms of meat consumption, chicken now rules the roost. Regulating it might not have been necessary back when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. But today I believe it most definitely is.

As a professional in the food safety industry, I champion the FSIS’ decision. It’s about time the agency added Salmonella to its list of adulterants; the bacteria causes far too much illness and death in the U.S. every year. Many of those cases could have been prevented through regulatory oversight.

Addressing Poultry Industry Concerns

It is true, as opponents of the proposed regulation argue, that Salmonella doesn’t always emerge in the processing plant; humans can inadvertently introduce the bacteria in their own kitchens. Why, the industry asks, should it be penalized for conditions outside of its control? In addition, proper cooking methods will kill Salmonella. If people don’t follow cooking directions on the packages of chicken they buy, and get sick from Salmonella as a result, the chicken industry believes it should not be held accountable.

On the first issue, it is unlikely that cases revolving around individual consumers introducing Salmonella to their chicken products would ever lead to penalties. Federal regulators scrutinize public health data for clusters of outbreaks, which often point toward entire product lines being infected with bacteria; isolated one-off cases, many of which indeed could be the result of human error, do not concern them.

For the second point, yes, people should read labels and closely follow cooking directions. But in my opinion, that is irrelevant; dangerous levels of Salmonella simply should not dwell in foods, and it’s the job of regulators to make sure food is safe.

Toy manufacturers, for example, must eliminate choking hazards from products designed for kids under 3 years, thanks to federal regulations. It shouldn’t be up to parents to constantly monitor their toddlers while they play with toys, to ensure they don’t gag on something potentially dangerous found on the stuffed giraffe.

Should the rule become policy, the FSIS will focus on just one category: stuffed, breaded and raw chicken products. These products, including dishes like chicken Kiev and chicken cordon bleu, often are heat-treated to set the batter or breading, but are not fully cooked. They have been associated with 14 outbreaks and about 200 illnesses since 1998.

This represents a solid start. Next, I’d like to see the FSIS pursue regulating Salmonella in other chicken products. Even if the agency doesn’t, however, many processors will have to implement new practices and testing procedures for all of their products anyway, as in many cases it won’t make sense to just incorporate new protocols within a few discrete product lines. Among other things, I would anticipate boosted commitments among producers and processors to cleaning and sanitation processes, environmental monitoring (probably the most important pursuit) and overall facility food safety measures.

Will this action by the FSIS completely eliminate Salmonella from the targeted products? Absolutely not. The rule sets a maximum threshold for Salmonella in the food the agency tests; in many cases, chicken products that contain negligible amounts of the bacteria will still make it to market. It’s just products containing dangerous amounts of Salmonella that will be subject to penalties.

Food safety serves as one of the foundations of a healthy society. It also reinforces and bolsters public trust in the products consumers buy, which nurtures and strengthens the entire food industry. With this proposed Salmonella rule by the USDA, the U.S. takes another important step toward ensuring the health of its citizens, and further enhancing consumer trust in the chicken products they buy.

Salmonella

National Advisory Committee Announces Public Meeting to Discuss Actions on Cronobacter, Cyclospora and Salmonella

Salmonella

The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) will hold a virtual public meeting on November 15 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm ET to discuss work being advanced by the FDA on Cronobacter spp. in powdered infant formula. The Committee will also discuss updates under the Cyclospora cayetanensis subcommittee and vote on adopting the report: “Enhancing Salmonella Control in Poultry Products.”

NACMCF is an advisory committee, established by the USDA, that provides impartial, scientific advice and/or peer reviews to federal food safety agencies for use in the development of an integrated national food safety systems approach.

The meeting is intended to help the committee gain scientific insight regarding Cronobacter infections, including recommendations for how public health authorities can better protect public health, as well as recommendations for food safety management practices that the food industry can implement to enhance the safety of powdered infant formula.

The meeting will be held virtually using Zoom. Attendees must pre-register to receive a join link, dial-in number, access code and unique Attendee ID. Attendees who would like to deliver comments during the meeting must register by November 8, 2022. Attendees who do not plan to speak at the public meeting may register at any time up to the day of the meeting. The meeting agenda is available on the FSIS events page.

 

Bouradi and Serino headshots

National Restaurant Association Announces Food Safety Leadership Award Winners

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Bouradi and Serino headshots

Al “Dr. Al” Baroudi, MS, Ph.D., CFS, vice president of Food Safety and Quality Assurance for The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated, and Christina Serino, senior director for Quality Assurance and Food Safety at P.F. Chang’s, have been recognized by the National Restaurant Association as outstanding leaders in food safety.

Baroudi received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Leader in Food Safety, and Serino was named the 2022 Outstanding Leader in Food Safety during the Association’s Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) Expert Exchange event in September.

The Outstanding Food Safety Awards, sponsored by Ecolab, were created to recognize individuals whose careers reflect consumer safety across the industry.

The first Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Leader in Food Safety was presented to Baroudi in recognition of his contributions to the food safety industry. Over the course of his career, he has been a leader in operational food safety innovation, with a dedication to industry-wide mentorship and workforce development and has volunteered his thought leadership in organizations that define food safety across industry, academia and government.

“I am extremely honored and thankful for the recognition in receiving this prestigious award that represents a remarkable milestone in my lifelong career in food safety. Preventing any and every foodborne illness has been my goal throughout my career, and I am truly humbled by this recognition,” said Baroudi. “I have been very fortunate to work with government agencies, academia and several companies throughout my career. I would like to thank The Cheesecake Factory, for not only recognizing the value of food safety culture, but for giving me the opportunity to create and lead our robust program.”

Serino was selected as the 2022 Outstanding Leader in Food Safety in recognition of her dedication to food safety through personal and professional accomplishments including improving food safety processes, introducing innovations to manage food supply systems and foodservice operations, and mentoring other foodservice professionals.

Serino has more than a decade of experience in food safety and quality assurance, including positions in private industry and in regulatory roles. At P.F. Chang’s, she oversees food safety, quality, regulatory compliance and environmental, social and governance issues.

“This is recognition of the hard work and dedication by food safety professionals across the industry,” Serino said. “We know food safety is non-negotiable and understand the unique responsibility we carry. At P.F. Chang’s we think about it as a harvest to plate continuum—factoring in everything from supply chains to menu listings. It’s top of mind so all our guests, regardless of dietary needs or health profiles, can enjoy a meal knowing the food they’re eating is safe.”

A panel of six food safety professionals, five from the National Restaurant Association FSQA Expert Exchange Steering Committee and one from Ecolab, evaluated the award nominations to select the honorees.

Tamales

Public Health Alert for Poultry and Meat Products Containing FDA-Regulated Corn Starch

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Tamales

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert for select La Guadalupana Foods, Inc. poultry and meat products, which contain an FDA-regulated corn starch that has been recalled due to an undeclared allergen, specifically milk.

FSIS issued the public health alert to ensure that consumers are aware that these products should not be consumed. The FSIS announcement notes that additional products may be added, as it is likely that additional meat and poultry products will be affected by the corn starch.

The list of products subject to the public health alert are available here. The tamales were shipped to warehouse, distributor and retail locations in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. However, if other products are added, additional states might be affected.

FSIS and FDA are working together to determine the extent of the distribution of the corn starch to other establishments. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. FSIS urges consumers who have purchased these products not to consume them and either throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

Salmonella

USDA Declares Salmonella an Adulterant in Breaded Stuffed Raw Chicken Products

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Salmonella

On August 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it will be declaring Salmonella an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products.

The FSIS noted that since 1998, breaded and stuffed raw chicken products have been associated with up to 14 outbreaks and approximately 200 illnesses. Products in this category are found in the freezer section and include some chicken cordon bleu or chicken Kiev products. The challenge is that these products appear cooked to consumers, but they are heat-treated only to set the batter or breading. The products contain raw poultry, and continual efforts to improve the product labeling have not been effective at reducing consumer illnesses, said the FSIS.

By declaring Salmonella an adulterant in these products, 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 proposing to set the limit at 1 colony forming unit (CFU) of Salmonella per gram for these products, a level that the agency believes will significantly reduce the risk of illness from consuming these products. The agency will also seek comment on whether a different standard for adulteration, such as zero tolerance or one based on specific serotypes, would be more appropriate.

“Today’s announcement is an important moment in U.S. food safety because we are declaring Salmonella an adulterant in a raw poultry product,” said Sandra Eskin, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “This is just the beginning of our efforts to improve public health.”

The notice is expected to publish in the Federal Register in the fall. FSIS will be seeking public comments that address what the standard should be as well as to inform its final implementation plan, including a verification testing program. Once published, the notice will be posted in FSIS’ Federal Register & Rulemaking page for review and comment. 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.

In October 2021, USDA announced it was reevaluating its strategy for controlling Salmonella in poultry, including whether Salmonella should be considered an adulterant in specific raw poultry products. Since launching this effort, USDA has been focusing on gathering information by meeting with stakeholders to hear their ideas, asking for recommendations from food safety experts and soliciting ideas for pilot projects from industry to test drive different control strategies in poultry establishments. USDA plans to present a proposed framework for a new comprehensive strategy to reduce Salmonella illnesses attributable to poultry in October and convene a public meeting to discuss it in November.

Raw chicken breast
Food Genomics

FSIS Rethinking its Approach to Salmonella in Poultry

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Raw chicken breast

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it is rethinking its approach to how it addresses Salmonella in poultry based on the findings of a recent study, ”Assessing the Effectiveness of Revised Performance Standards for Salmonella Contamination of Chicken Parts,” published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology.

Michael S. Williams, et al, examined changes in Salmonella occurrence within the chicken parts industry following implementation of a new set of FSIS standards, announced in 2015 and implemented in 2016.

The standards were chosen based on the assumption that the program would lead to a 30% reduction in the occurrence of Salmonella-contaminated chicken parts samples. While the new analysis showed a much higher than anticipated reduction in Salmonella-contaminated chicken parts (more than 75%), the FSIS notes that this has not translated to a reduction in Salmonella-related illnesses attributable to poultry products.

A Shift in Seasonal Patterns and Salmonella Serotypes

In examining data collected between April 1, 2015 through December 31, 2020, the authors found a significant change in Salmonella serotypes in sampled products, an increase in antimicrobial resistant strains and a shift in seasonal occurrence of Salmonella.

Occurrence of Salmonella in poultry products has traditionally peaked in the summer months. However, in what the authors called one of the most surprising findings of the study, review of data from 2015-2020 showed a mid-winter peak with lower rates of occurrence in the summer.

The study also found that while Salmonella Enteritidis and Kentucky—two of the most common serotypes—decreased significantly, Salmonella Infantis demonstrated a rapid increase from less than 4% of positive samples in 2015 to 25% in 2020. This signals a growing area of concern as a larger portion of Infantis isolates are classified as multi-drug resistant. The authors noted that with no new interventions, “Infantis will likely become the dominant Salmonella serotype in chicken parts.”

The increase of the Infantis serotype as well as the apparent failure of the 2015 standards to reduce the occurrence of Salmonella-related illnesses attributable to poultry products is why FSIS is rethinking its approach to how it addresses Salmonella in poultry. This will include taking a closer look at the agency’s reliance on performance standards, and whether they need to be revised.

FSIS is collaborating with stakeholders and gathering information to develop a multi-step approach to reducing Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry products. The agency plans to present a draft framework for a revised strategy and convene a public meeting to discuss it in the Fall.

 

Calf

USDA Targets Transparency and Competition To Promote Fair and Competitive Markets for Livestock and Poultry

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Calf

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced three initiatives that are the first in a suite of major actions under the Biden Administration to create fairer marketplaces for poultry, livestock and hog producers. On May 26, USDA announced a proposed rule that will require poultry companies and live poultry dealers to provide key information contract producers need to make production contract decisions best suited to their businesses. This action is part of a set of significant policy changes USDA is undertaking to achieve the goals of the President’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy.

Second, USDA is seeking input from stakeholders through a separate policymaking action to determine whether the current tournament-style system in poultry growing could be modernized to create a fairer marketplace that allows more producers to participate. And third, USDA released a Competition Report outlining its strategy for enhancing competition in the food and agricultural sectors. With this report, USDA is also announcing plans to complete a top-to-bottom review of programs for alignment with supporting competition and a new review of the most widely used animal-raising claims to help ensure those claims are adequately verified.

“The Packers and Stockyards Act is crucial for protecting farmers and ranchers from excessive concentration and unfair, deceptive practices in the poultry, hog, and cattle markets. But after 100 years, it needs to take modern market dynamics into account,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Increased transparency is the essential starting point for modernizing our rules, protecting producers, and countering the damaging effects of concentration.”

Agricultural Competition: A Plan in Support of Fair and Competitive Markets,” sets out USDA’s strategies to increase competition through investing in new competitors to address major bottlenecks in the food and agricultural supply chains, in particular meat and poultry processing and domestic fertilizer capacity. It also highlights USDA’s efforts to reinvigorate competition and fair market regulation and oversight, including partnering with the Department of Justice to establish farmerfairness.gov, a joint complaints and tips web portal. The report also highlights USDA’s efforts to enhance value-added competitive opportunities for producers, including the already-announced top-to-bottom review of the “Product of USA” label for beef and a newly announced review of animal-raising claims, among many other strategies and efforts.

Under the proposed rule, poultry companies will be required to make certain disclosures to poultry growers with whom they contract to raise birds, to provide current and prospective growers with the accurate information they need to be make informed business decisions and avoid the risks of deception. Specifically, it would require poultry companies to provide a Live Poultry Dealer Disclosure Document that includes information on bird placements, stocking density, prior litigation with poultry growers, prior bankruptcy filings, and payments realized by other poultry growers in prior years broken out by quintiles to reflect a realistic range of outcomes for different growers. Small live poultry dealers, those harvesting less than 2 million live pounds of poultry weekly, would be exempt from the disclosure requirements of the proposed rule.

Additionally, the proposed rule will provide growers who are paid using a poultry grower ranking system with disclosures around the inputs they receive from the poultry company, at time of placement and at settlement. These placement disclosures will improve growers’ ability to monitor issues and to compete on a real-time basis using the inputs they receive. Settlement disclosures—which show the distribution of the inputs, the housing specification, and any feed disruptions for the growers in the tournament—will help growers understand the relative importance of inputs, housing investments, and skills/efforts in tournament outcomes. In doing so, it will prevent deception and help growers plan and improve their ability to compete and deliver positive outcomes.

The proposed rule is being published in the Federal Register and will be available for public comment. It is currently available for review on USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service website. Stakeholders and other interested parties have 60 days from the date it is published in the Federal Register to submit comments via the Regulations.gov web portal. All comments submitted will be considered as USDA develops a final rule.

The parallel release of an advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeks public input around additional steps USDA can take to ensure the fair operation of those poultry growing contracts. It seeks input on the fairness of the tournament system overall, as well as on additional ways to address concerns relating to specific practices. In the months ahead, USDA also intends to propose rules that provide greater clarity to strengthen enforcement of unfair and deceptive practices, unjust discrimination, and undue preferences and prejudices, as well as address requirements relating to harm to competition under section 202(a) and 202(b) of the P&S Act.

 

Poulty Farmer

USDA NIFA Invests in Meat and Poultry Agriculture Workforce Training and Mitigating Antimicrobial Resistance Across the Food Chain

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Poulty Farmer

On May 26, 2022, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced an investment of $25 million, as part of the American Rescue Plan for meat and poultry agriculture workforce training. NIFA will invest $25 million through new and existing workforce development programs to provide a pipeline of well-trained workers to meet the demand increased independent processing capacity.
“These investments will enhance equity and capacity across the food supply chain by supporting meat and poultry research, education and training at the local level. USDA will leverage its robust regional education and extension networks and establish new, or supplement existing, Centers of Excellence at Minority-serving Institutions to support this capacity-building effort,” said Acting NIFA Director Dr. Dionne Toombs. “Workforce training will increase the resiliency and competitiveness of our local and regional supply chains and support the industry’s urgent need for highly skilled talent to meet labor demands across the country.”

The investment includes two funding opportunities:

  • Extension Risk Management Education and Sustainable Agriculture Research Education Programs: An investment of $5 million will be split equally between Extension Risk Management Education and Sustainable Agriculture Research Education programs. Work in these programs will support development of meat and poultry processing training and educational materials for place-based needs, particularly relevant to small- or medium-sized farmers and ranchers. Additionally, training local and/or regional meat and poultry workers presents a unique opportunity to address the demand from niche markets, like mobile processing units fulfilling market demand from fresh markets, on-site processing, farm-to-fork (restaurateurs), boutique grocers and others.
  • Community/Technical College Ag Workforce Training and Expanded Learning Opportunities: This Agricultural Workforce Training (AWT) investment makes available $20 million to qualified community colleges to support meat and poultry processing workforce development programs. The AWT program seeks to develop a workforce ready for the field as well as industry jobs in the food and agricultural sectors. By creating new workforce training programs, or expanding, improving, or renewing existing workforce training programs at community, junior, and technical colleges/institutes, this program will expand job-based, experiential learning opportunities, acquisition of industry-accepted credentials and occupational competencies for students to enable a workforce for the 21st century.

The NIF also announced an investment of more than $5 million to mitigate antimicrobial resistance across the food chain. “Pathogen resistance to antimicrobials is a complex problem, encompassing human medicine, poultry and livestock health, and even plant crop production,” said Dr. Toombs. “The projects supported through this investment will work to ensure a safe, nutritious and abundant food supply while conserving antimicrobial effectiveness.”
This investment is part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Mitigating Antimicrobial Resistance Across the Food Chain grant program, which supports integrated research, education and extension projects. Research approaches include risk assessment, antibiotic management and stewardship, advancing understanding of emerging resistant pathogens and their mechanisms for resistance, and disease control using antimicrobial alternatives. NIFA’s work contributes to the overall federal strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance as described in the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria National Action Plan 2020-2025.

Nine projects are being funded, totaling $5,117,165. Examples of the funded projects include:

  • Scientists at the University of Florida will study the effects on naturally occurring bacteria when citrus greening disease-infected trees are sprayed with antibiotics to characterize development of antimicrobial resistance. ($299,999)
  • Scientists at the Iowa State University of Science and Technology will model the movement of bacteria through different environments, such as surface and subsurface water, as a route for bacterial movement from animal and human waste to plant crops. ($1,000,000)
  • Scientists in Veterinary Preventive Medicine at The Ohio State University will study the movement of auctioned male calves through the market to better understand the use of antimicrobial drugs to prevent and treat disease. ($999,938)

To sign up for notifications of these and other NIFA funding opportunities visit the NIFA Funding Opportunities page.

 

 

Recall

Wayne Farms Recalls More Than 585,000 Pounds of RTE Chicken

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

Wayne Farms, LLC is recalling about 585,030 pounds of a ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken breast fillet product over concern that it may be undercooked. The issue was uncovered when the company received a customer complaint that the RTE chicken product was undercooked.

The recall was expanded from an initial recall of 30,285 pounds of chicken breast fillets, which affected products produced between February 9 and April 30,2022. The expanded action affects products with use by dates ranging from 5-10-22 through 4-29-23.

A full description of the chicken breast fillet products subject to the recall is available in an FSIS announcement on the USDA’s website.

Kroger Ground Beef

FSIS Issues Public Health Alert About Possible E. Coli O26 Contamination in Ground Beef Products

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Kroger Ground Beef

USDA’s FSIS has issued a public health alert regarding ground beef products that may be adulterated with E. coli O26. Since the products were produced on December 16 and 17, 2021, the products are no longer available for purchase—and thus the agency is not requesting a recall. However, since people frequently freeze ground beef, FSIS is concerned that these products could still in consumers’ freezers. The agency is urging consumers to check their ground beef products and not consumer the products listed in the public health alert.

The products were distributed to warehouses in Oregon and Washington and sold at retail locations, including Kroger. FSIS has provided images of the labels of the affected products.

The issue was uncovered after a consumer submitted one of the affected ground beef products to a third-party laboratory for microbiological analysis. Results confirmed the sample was positive for E. coli O26.

Across the country in New Jersey, Lakeside Refrigerated Services recently recalled more than 120,000 pounds of ground beef products due to concerns of E. coli O103 contamination.