The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would declare Salmonella an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products. This proposed ruling would require some food processors to risk being shut down if they do not reduce the amount of salmonella bacteria found in their products.
Because these products — such as chicken cordon bleu or chicken Kiev that you might find in the freezer section at your grocery store — seem to be pre-cooked but in reality are only heat-treated to set the batter or breading, consumers can easily undercook the chicken, leading to illness. The USDA says that efforts to improve labeling have not been effective at reducing consumer illnesses.
“Since 1998, breaded and stuffed raw chicken products have been associated with up to 14 outbreaks and approximately 200 illnesses,” according to USDA’s statement about the ruling.
Annually, Salmonella sickens 1.35 million Americans, prompting over 26,000 people to seek treatment at hospitals and causing 420 deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last fall, FSIS announced it was reevaluating its strategy for controlling Salmonella in poultry.
“Food safety is at the heart of everything FSIS does,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement about the new ruling, referencing USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. “That mission will guide us as this important first step launches a broader initiative to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry in the U.S.”
He shared the news on social media, as well.
“Even one illness due to Salmonella is too many,” Vilsack tweeted.
Even one illness due to Salmonella is too many. That’s why @USDAFoodSafety is taking the bold step today of declaring Salmonella an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products.— Secretary Tom Vilsack (@SecVilsack) August 1, 2022
The ruling will focus on developing new methods to guide future Salmonella policy and improving Salmonella control.
According to CBS News, representatives of the National Chicken Council, Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms declined to comment. However, the Perdue Farms spokesperson mentioned that the company belongs to the Coalition for Poultry Safety Reform, which works with the USDA to reduce foodborne illnesses.
“Today’s announcement is an important moment in U.S. food safety because we are declaring Salmonella an adulterant in a raw poultry product,” USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin said in a statement. “This is just the beginning of our efforts to improve public health.”