The USDA’s path to success with Salmonella

Sandra Eskin, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the USDA, outlines how the organisation is looking to reduce Salmonella infections.

In the early 1990s, while working as a food policy consultant for AARP (The American Association of Retired Persons), I read with horror the news accounts of a foodborne illness outbreak in the Pacific Northwest linked to undercooked hamburgers served at a fast-food restaurant.

I quickly realised that this was a significant public health issue that impacted AARP members, and AARP’s leadership agreed.

Over the following years, I engaged in the policy making process by helping write an amicus brief in support of USDA’s decision to declare E.coli O157:H7 an adulterant. I also drafted comments for AARP on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) landmark regulation – the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) rule – which represented a major shift to FSIS’ current prevention-based approach to food safety.

Fast forward 30 years and I am now serving as USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, where I lead the public health agency responsible for the safety of meat, poultry and egg products. USDA’s Office of Food Safety and FSIS have made reducing Salmonella illnesses attributable to poultry our priority, and we are confident that a retooled regulatory strategy will save more lives and spare more people – especially the young and the old – from debilitating illness.