New federal standards relating to poultry products have been put forward by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
The proposed standards are aimed at reducing Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products as well as raw chicken breasts, legs and wings. These products have been targeted because they are the poultry items that Americans most often buy, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The new measures could prevent tens of thousands of illnesses each year.
By making the standards for ground poultry tougher to meet, ground poultry products will have less contamination and will cause fewer foodborne illnesses.
Performance standards for whole chickens have been in place since 1996 but FSIS has since learned that Salmonella levels increase as chicken is further processed into parts. This is important because poultry parts represent 80 percent of the chicken available for Americans to buy. By creating a standard for chicken parts, and by performing regulatory testing at a point closer to the final product, FSIS hopes to greatly reduce consumer exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter.
"Getting more germs out of the chicken and turkey we eat is an important step in protecting people from foodborne illness," said Robert V. Tauxe, MD, deputy director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new proposed standards stem from FSIS' Salmonella Action Plan, which was launched in December 2013 with the specific aim of reducing Salmonella illnesses from meat and poultry products.