USDA Food Safety Inspection Service releases new Salmonella Action Plan

The Food Safety Inspection Service reports aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan that will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer.

Consumers may remember the 2013 recalls of chicken for strains of salmonella bacteria. The chicken sickened 389 people in 23 states and Puerto Rico. Food safety experts and consumers have asked for greater transparency in the area of foodborne illness investigations. The process to determine salmonella contamination takes considerable time and can vary widely, location to location, state to state, potentially slowing the process of local health authorities even beginning an investigation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has just released its new Salmonella Action Plan to address the estimated 1.3 million illnesses, including about 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths caused by the salmonella pathogen each year. Under Secretary for Food Safety, Elisabeth Hagen reported, “far too many Americans are sickened by salmonella every year.” She continued by stating, aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer.

The significance of the action plan recognizes the modernization of the poultry slaughter inspection system. FSIS estimates that this documentation will substantially reduce salmonella illnesses. The plan further identifies that pork product inspection will include the publishing of directive instructions for inspectors on the verification of activities.

In the meantime, consumers should continue to follow food safety practices outlined by the FSIS. These include the following:

Clean—Wash hands and surfaces often.

Separate—Separate raw meat from other foods.

Cook—Cook to the right temperature.

Chill—Refrigerate food promptly.

To guarantee food cooked to safe internal temperatures FSIS recommends that consumers use food thermometers before removing food from the heat source. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook food to higher temperatures. A detailed guide is available and outlines minimal internal temperatures. Michigan State University Extension reminds consumers to remember the cautionary words of the FSIS: Following the Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential in preventing foodborne illness. You can’t see, smell or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness.

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