Potential Public Health Impact of Salmonella and Campylobacter Performance Guidance for Young Chickens and Turkeys
A number of guidance options were considered by FSIS. In general, all guidance options involved sampling finished poultry (young chickens and turkeys) carcasses in federally-regulated poultry slaughter establishments for the presence of Salmonella and Campylobacter. These options describe different approaches to determining whether a tested establishment passes the guidance or not.
The principal effect of any guidance option is to encourage industry to produce a safer product. Under FSIS’ current Salmonella policy, the names of poultry carcass establishments in either Category 2 or Category 3 are posted monthly on the FSIS website (FSIS, 2006). Past experience has demonstrated that the disincentives of FSIS guidance have persuaded the industry to expend the resources necessary to improve performance.
In general, public health improves as slaughter establishments reduce the occurrence of pathogens on their products, and so we assume a stricter guidance option will generate more public health benefits. The stricter the guidance (i.e., the fewer positive samples allowed in a set of samples) the more slaughter establishments will initially not pass the guidance. A stricter guidance equates to a lower allowable prevalence of contaminated carcasses, so the overall prevalence of contaminated carcasses will decline as more establishments pass the guidance.
Among Salmonella-contaminated poultry carcasses, the number of Salmonella organisms (i.e., “level”) is generally low. However, human salmonellosis is often attributable to small numbers of Salmonella growing to infectious doses between production and consumption, due to abusive storage and handling conditions. Therefore, because the occurrence of any Salmonella on a carcass poses a potential risk to consumers, guidance relates to prevalence i.e., presence or absence of pathogens among samples tested.
Among Campylobacter-contaminated poultry carcasses, there is substantial variability in numbers of Campylobacter organisms. Large counts, or “high levels,” of Campylobacter may be more important than its prevalence on carcasses, because Campylobacter are not expected to grow between production and consumption and, therefore, larger initial counts increase the chance that some viable organisms can survive cooking effects or cross-contaminate other food products. For this reason, FSIS’ Campylobacter guidance is based, in part, on higher levels of Campylobacter demonstrated on samples tested.