Combating Salmonella in Poultry

Salmonella in poultry. This pathogen is a leading cause of foodborne illness.

Salmonella bacteria cause an estimated 1.35 million infections in the US each year not only foodborne but across numerous products and other contexts. The most recent report from the interagency food safety analytics collaboration estimates that over 23% of foodborne salmonella illnesses are attributed to poultry consumption, specifically almost 17% for chicken and over 6% for turkey.

Those numbers provided by agriculture Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin at this year’s USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum. So how is USDA and partners and government industry and academia combating salmonella.

We announced in October of 2021, USDA’s FSI (Food Safety and Inspection Service) and the Office of Food Safety that we were going to undertake a reevaluation of our strategy or policies or regulations related to salmonella contamination in poultry.

The reason while the number of chicken samples detecting salmonella decreased over a five-year period to 2021, the estimated rate of human salmonella infections from all sources has remained constant during that same time period that has led to several meetings. And studies among stakeholders over the past two years. University of Minnesota Professor Craig Hedberg offers one view from the academia perspective.

The challenge for us is to improve our methods of surveillance to focus on the pathogens that actually are causing illness. In people and look for those in our meat and poultry products and understand the dynamics of how humans are being exposed to those organisms that lead to the occurrence of illness.

Independent food safety consultants Robert O. Cotter offers the perspective of the poultry industry regarding efforts to curb salmonella.

Given the current regulatory framework. I walked away from a lot of processing facilities that were category two. So with all my experience, you would think I’m only working with category one plants is categorization a good measure of the efforts that a company puts into controlling salmonella

Michael Taylor, a former Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator and now part of a consumer nonprofit organization, provides both a consumer and policy view of what it will take to combat salmonella in poultry,

Poultry companies, independent of the regulatory standards, have been innovating in various ways, particularly some of the leading larger companies have been innovating and trying to figure out solutions to the problem that there are certain serotypes of salmonella that are present fairly infrequently but account for the majority of the illnesses. How do you solve that problem in a complex production system?