Data indicate reduced incidence of Salmonella in raw meat, poultry

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Data released April 16 by the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service show that overall, the regulatory sampling prevalence of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry continues to decrease.

In calendar year 2002, the FSIS took 58,085 samples, compared with 45,941 in 2001, a 26.4 percent increase in the number of samples taken. The percentage of samples testing positive for Salmonella across all commodities dropped from 5 percent to 4.3 percent, however.

For steer/heifer carcasses, the FSIS found 14 samples positive out of 4,572—a rate of 0.3 percent. Also, Salmonella positive-samples from very small broiler plants showed the greatest decrease, from 37.2 percent in 2001 to 8.4 percent in 2002.

"These data tell us that we are making steady and sustained progress in reducing the incidence of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products," said USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano, PhD. "This positive trend in regulatory samples will hopefully translate into fewer cases of salmonellosis due to meat and poultry."

The FSIS collects and analyzes Salmonella regulatory samples in seven categories: broilers, market hogs, cows/bulls, steer/heifer, ground beef, ground chicken, and ground turkey. In every category, Salmonella prevalence continues to register well below baselines set prior to the implementation of the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (PR/HACCP) system. Six of the seven categories had improvement between 2001 and 2002, with only ground chicken having an increase in positive test results.

Regulatory sampling prevalence of Salmonella for the years 1998-2002 as compared with the performance standard established in the PR/HACCP rule are as follows: broilers, 10.9 percent compared with a standard of 20 percent, market hogs, 4.7 percent compared with a standard of 8.7 percent, cows/bulls, 2 percent compared with a standard of 2.7 percent; steer/heifer, 0.4 percent compared with a standard of 1 percent; ground beef, 3.2 percent compared with a standard of 7.5 percent; ground chicken, 19.8 percent compared with a standard of 44.6 percent; and ground turkey, 26.6 percent compared with a standard of 49.9 percent.

The USDA continues to strengthen its food safety programs to ensure safe and wholesome meat, poultry, and egg products. On Jan. 23, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced that President Bush would seek record-level support for the USDA's meat and poultry food safety programs as well as increase efforts to strengthen agricultural protection systems in his fiscal year 2004 budget.

The USDA's food safety budget would increase to $797 million, an increase of $42 million over the FY 2003 request, which adds up to a $148 million increase in food safety programs since FY 2000.

The FY 2004 request would fund 7,680 food safety inspectors, provide intensified training for the inspection workforce, increase microbiologic testing and sampling, strengthen foreign surveillance programs, and increase public education efforts.