Consumer groups call for modernisation of USDA poultry safety framework
The organisations claimed that the USDA’s safety framework does not reflect up-to-date advances in science and technology, therefore putting consumer health at risk.
Consumer health and safety groups Stop Foodborne Illness and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have called for changes at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reduce foodborne illness associated with Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry.
In comments filed with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the groups said that USDA’s 25-year old regulatory framework does not meet recent advances in science and technology and fails to reflect modern best practices for preventing illness caused by pathogens in food.
“To their credit, FSIS, academic experts, and many poultry industry leaders recognise the poultry safety problem and are working on solutions,” said Stop Foodborne Illness CEO, Mitzi Baum. “Consumers rightfully expect, however, that FSIS build today’s best practices into its regulatory system so they can become common practices.”
The organisations asked the agency to hold poultry slaughter establishments accountable for minimising the extent to which live birds entering their facilities are contaminated with dangerous pathogens. They also asked the agency to replace the currently unenforceable Salmonella and Campylobacter performance standards with enforceable finished product standards targeting the forms of these bacteria most likely to make people sick.
“Given all that we now know about how disease spreads from farms into our food system, it is no longer acceptable for safety regulations to stop at the slaughterhouse door,” said Sarah Sorscher, Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs at Center for Science in the Public Interest. “USDA must work with stakeholders to ensure that harmful pathogens are controlled on the farm, so that sick animals will not spread disease to humans through the food supply.”
In response to the call, an FSIS spokesperson said: “FSIS is currently considering a petition submitted by William D. Marler on 18 January 2020, on behalf Rick Schiller, Steven Romes, the Porter Family, Food & Water Watch, Consumer Federation of America and Consumer Reports, requesting that FSIS declare certain Salmonella serotypes to be adulterants in meat and poultry products and will respond once the review process is complete.
“FSIS posted the petition on its website and regulations.gov to facilitate submission of public comments on the petition. FSIS will post the letter from Center for Science in the Public Interest and Stop Foodborne Illness on regulations.gov as part of the docket. The comment period closed on 22 May 2020. FSIS will then consider the public comments as part of the agency’s review of the petition.”