The rate of Salmonella contamination of raw meat and poultry has dropped by 66 percent over the past six years and by 16 percent compared with 2002, according to the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
"These results show that we are making progress in our efforts to enhance meat and poultry inspection systems," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman.
The FSIS has more than 8,000 veterinarians and inspectors stationed in meat and poultry plants across the nation to ensure compliance with federal laws and regulations. As part of an extensive, science-based food safety system, the FSIS collects and analyzes Salmonella samples in seven categories of raw meat and poultry, as one way to verify compliance with food safety requirements.
Of the random samples collected and analyzed between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2003, 3.6 percent tested positive for Salmonella, compared with 4.29 percent in 2002, 5.03 percent in 2001, 5.31 percent in 2000, 7.26 percent in 1999, and 10.65 percent in 1998.
The USDA recently announced data showing similar reductions in Escherichia coli O157:H7 in ground beef and Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products.
Earlier this year, the USDA outlined a series of new, science-based initiatives to better understand, predict, and prevent microbiologic contamination of meat and poultry products. These steps include enhancing inspector training, expediting the approval of new technologies, creating a risk assessment coordination team, and conducting research on priority areas.
The USDA is also working to enhance consumer education through a variety of programs, including a traveling food safety mobile that provides information directly to consumers. The agency operates a meat and poultry hotline, (888) 647-6854, and provides information on its Web site, www.usda.gov.