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May 10th, 2010
04:32 PM ET

USDA sets new standards for inspecting poultry

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

The federal government is trying to cut down on the number of food borne illnesses in poultry. This afternoon Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new standards for inspecting young chickens (broilers) and turkeys.

"With these new standards we hope to prevent an estimated 39,000 illnesses due to Campylobacter and 26,000 illnesses due to Salmonella within the next two years," Vilsack said. Vilsack also mentioned the new performance standards fulfill a key recommendation of the President's Food Safety Working Group and are the first-ever for Campylobacter, and the first revision to the Salmonella standards for chicken since 1996 and for turkeys since 2005. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also released a compliance guide to help the poultry industry address Salmonella and Campylobacter and a compliance guide on known practices for pre-harvest management to reduce E. coli O157:H7 contamination in cattle.

"There is no more important mission at USDA than ensuring the safety of our food, and we are working every day as part of the President's Food Safety Working Group (FSIS) to lower the danger of food borne illness," said Vilsack. "The new standards announced today mark an important step in our efforts to protect consumers by further reducing the incidence of Salmonella and opening a new front in the fight against Campylobacter."

According to the USDA by revising current performance standards and setting new ones, FSIS is encouraging establishments to make continued improvement in the levels of pathogens in their products. FSIS developed the stricter performance standards by using data from completed studies that measured the baseline prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chicken (broiler) and turkey carcasses nationwide.

The FSIS expects to begin using the standards after analyzing public comment and, if necessary, making adjustments.

"Preventing food borne illness is the core mission of the Food Safety and Inspection Service and today's announcement will help us reduce the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter," said Jerold Mande, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety.

Comments regarding the compliance guides document must be received within the 60 day comment period through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or by mail to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. All submissions received through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by mail must reference the Food Safety and Inspection Service and include the docket number "FSIS-2009-0034."

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.