Salmonella found in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products would be deemed an adulterant — and thus subjected to recall — under a forthcoming proposed federal regulation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent announcement of the proposal follows a Consumer Reports investigation that led to a recall of 28,000 pounds of chicken, as we reported in “Salmonella Found in One-Third of This Grocery Store Meat.”
If the USDA proposal is finalized, producers of breaded and stuffed raw chicken will be prohibited from selling such products if they contain salmonella, even if no illnesses have been linked to the bacteria.
Consumer Reports says this would be the first time a food-borne pathogen is labeled an adulterant in chicken. To date, the only bacteria labeled as adulterants are E. coli strains that produce toxins. And even then, the “adulterant” label has only been used with ground beef.
CR says many consumers remain unaware of the need to cook breaded chicken products, especially given their brown appearance. As a result, more than a dozen salmonella outbreaks have been traced to such products since 1998, with 200 people becoming sick during those events.
The USDA notes that its proposal is the first step in a wider strategy to reduce the amount of sickness attributed to salmonella contamination of poultry.
In the CR report about the USDA’s proposal, Brian Ronholm, CR’s director of food policy, calls the move a “landmark step”:
“It demonstrates that the USDA is serious about addressing salmonella and holding the industry accountable. And it establishes a precedent that will allow the department to work on enforceable salmonella standards for all poultry products based on outbreak data.”
CR reports that the USDA plans to issue its proposal in October.