On May 3, 2022, Sandra Eskin, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary of Food Safety in Health and Safety published an article titled, “Food Safety Is About People”, in which she addresses the USDA’s current efforts to reduce Salmonella contamination of poultry.
On October 19, 2021, the USDA announced a comprehensive plan the FSIS would execute to reduce the number of Salmonella infections, particularly due to the contamination of poultry. The project’s goal was to reach a 25% decrease in Salmonella infections nationwide. In this announcement the FDA reported, “more than 1 million consumer illnesses due to Salmonella occur annually, and it is estimated that over 23% of those illnesses are due to consumption of chicken and turkey.” The plan called for the cooperation of multi-disciplinary teams to provide the FSIS with pre-harvest and post-harvest intervention strategies and assessment data for chicken and turkey, in order to help the FSIS determine the prevalence of various subtypes of Salmonella that affect public health.
Eskin’s recent letter addresses the fact that despite the USDA’s national health goal to reduce Salmonella infections, “the number of illnesses due to Salmonella has not decreased over the last two decades.” Eskin explains that while the FSIS’s food safety testing reveals that Salmonella contamination of poultry has gone down, the number of human illnesses caused by Salmonella contamination have not. Eskin recognizes that further action must be taken to ensure that this changes.
Eskin assures the public of the USDA’s efforts, saying that a new strategic plan is in the works. She explains, “I’ve also reached out to industry, consumer advocates, and academics to hear their ideas about how FSIS can reduce Salmonella illnesses attributable to poultry consumption”.
While the USDA has an important role to play in the prevention of Salmonella contamination, you can also do your part to prevent Salmonella contamination of poultry in your own home. According to the CDC, the four most important steps to prevent Salmonella contamination are 1) Clean 2) Separate 3) Cook 4) Chill. For more information about how to do your part in protecting yourself and your family from Salmonella infection from poultry, visit the CDC’s website.