|Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
March 9, 1999
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is releasing a progress report on its first 12 months of testing for Salmonella in large meat and poultry plants. The Agency released its first progress report, covering the first 6 months of testing, in September 1998, and a second covering 9 months in January 1999. The 12-month progress report, which covers January 26, 1998, through January 25, 1999, presents data for four product classes: broilers, swine, ground beef and ground turkey.
Although results are still considered preliminary, and the data are insufficient to generalize across the industry, Salmonella prevalence in each of these four products was lower after Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) implementation than in baseline studies conducted before HACCP implementation. In addition, the majority of plants are complying with the Salmonella performance standards. The results are encouraging in light of the Agency's goal to reduce, to the extent possible, pathogens that can cause foodborne illness.
Consumers should continue to properly handle, prepare, and store all meat, poultry, and egg products in order to guard against foodborne illness.
In addition, to verify that HACCP systems are effective in controlling contamination from harmful bacteria, the rule sets pathogen reduction performance standards for Salmonella that slaughter plants and plants that produce raw, ground meat and poultry have to meet. FSIS conducts testing to verify that plants have met the standards by taking samples of the products and analyzing them for Salmonella in FSIS laboratories.
The requirements contained in the final rule on Pathogen Reduction and HACCP are being phased in. The requirements for SSOPs in all plants, and generic E. coli testing in slaughter plants, became effective on January 27, 1997. The requirements for HACCP and the Salmonella performance standards are being phased in based on plant size. All large plants--those with 500 or more employees--were required to implement these requirements on January 26, 1998. Large plants account for approximately 75 percent of slaughter production. Small plants--those with 10 or more, but fewer than 500 employees--implemented these requirements by January 25, 1999. Very small plants--those having fewer than 10 employees or annual sales of less than $2.5 million--have until January 25, 2000 to meet these requirements. Thus, this progress report includes data only from large plants.
The performance standards for Salmonella represent the first time USDA has set microbial standards for raw products on such a broad scale and is the first step towards a greater reliance on performance standards for specific pathogens. Salmonella was selected as the target pathogen because it is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness, it is present at varying frequencies on all types of raw meat and poultry products, and it can easily be tested for in a variety of products.
Separate performance standards apply to each species and class of product and are listed in the final rule on Pathogen Reduction and HACCP (9CRF, sections 310.25(b) and 381.94(b). Products currently covered by performance standards are carcasses of cattle, swine, and broilers; and ground beef, ground chicken, and ground turkey. The pathogen reduction performance standards are based on the prevalence of Salmonella, as determined from FSIS' nationwide microbial baseline surveys. Thus, the standards are based on industry averages, rather than how much Salmonella it takes to make someone sick. The reason for this is the Agency does not have solid data on the relationship between rates of contamination and their association with foodborne illness. FSIS intends to adjust the standards in the future as new data become available.
The standards are expressed in terms of the maximum number of positive samples that are allowed per sample set (sample sets are statistically determined and range from 51 samples for broilers to 82 samples for steers/heifers). For example, in steers and heifers, only 1 out of 82 samples is permitted to be positive. For broilers, 12 out of 51 samples are permitted to be positive. Samples are either positive or negative-the results are not expressed in terms of number of organisms found in a sample.
Plants must achieve the standard consistently over time through good process control. If a plant fails to meet the standard, it must take corrective action, or FSIS suspends inspection services for the product until plant management provides acceptable written assurances that appropriate action has been taken to correct the problem.
FSIS is not using test results to condemn products. Instead, the results are being used to verify that HACCP systems are effective in controlling contamination with Salmonella and other pathogens. The presence of Salmonella positives above the standard is an indication that the plant's system for addressing contamination is not working, and the plant must take steps to correct the problem.
Table 1 presents the Salmonella summary data for broilers, swine, ground beef and ground turkey. Results indicate that Salmonella, found on 20 percent of broiler carcasses in pre-HACCP baseline studies, was found on 10.9 percent of broiler carcasses after implementation. For swine, Salmonella was found on 8.7 percent of carcasses in pre-HACCP baseline studies, and 6.5 percent of carcasses after HACCP implementation. In ground beef, Salmonella was found in 7.5 percent of samples in pre-HACCP baseline studies, and 4.8 percent of samples after HACCP implementation. For ground turkey, Salmonella was found in 49.9 percent in pre-HACCP baseline studies, and in 36.4 percent of samples after HACCP implementation. Caution should be used in comparing these data because the sampling protocols, seasonal periods, and the number of plants vary among the testing phases. Nevertheless, summary data indicate a general trend toward lower percentages of products that are positive for Salmonella compared to the baseline studies.
Table 2 presents the percentage of plants meeting the Salmonella performance standards. Results indicate that most plants for which sample sets have been completed have met standards. Product-specific compliance was 91 percent for broilers, 71 percent for swine, 90 percent for ground beef and 91 percent for ground turkey. Plants failing to meet the performance standard were formally notified and required to take immediate action, consistent with the regulations, to comply with the requirements.
A more detailed report on Salmonella testing data in large plants is available on the FSIS web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPHS/salmdata.htm
|Class of Product||Pre-HACCP Baseline Studies**||Post-HACCP implementation
Salmonella Prevalence (%)
|Ground Beef||7.5%||4.8% (n=1184)|
|Ground Turkey||49.9%||36.4% (n=748)|
*Reflects testing results from products with 10
or more completed sample sets
**Corresponds to Salmonella performance standards, 9 CFR § § 310.25(b) and 381.94(b)
|Class of Product||Number of Plants||Number of Plants with Complete Data Sets||Percent (Number) Meeting Salmonella Performance Standard*|
|Ground Beef||25||10||90% (9)|
|Ground Turkey||17||11||91% (10)|
*Reflects testing results from products with 10 or more completed sample sets
For Further Information Contact:
FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff
Phone: (202) 720-3897
Fax: (202) 720-5704
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