CSPI Calls for USDA to Test Every Plant, Every Week for Salmonella
Statement of CSPI Senior Food Safety Attorney Sarah Klein
December 4, 2013
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest Salmonella Action Plan completely ignores one of the most critical issues facing consumers and the meat industry today: antibiotic-resistant Salmonella. It is shocking for the agency to have stayed on the sidelines of this public health crisis, particularly in the two and a half years since CSPI petitioned the agency to declare certain strains of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella to be adulterants. FSIS's failure to address antibiotic resistance in its Action Plan for Salmonella is a weakness that continues to leave the public at risk.
The Action Plan does makes some important improvements. What USDA describes as a "moving windows" approach for evaluating plant performance is a significant step that will allow USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to respond more nimbly and generate more useful data. FSIS should go further, however, and test every poultry and beef slaughter plant every week for Salmonella. This would increase consumer protection, as it would give FSIS real-time data on plant performance and allow the agency to take prompt action if a plant veers off course. Testing every plant every week would be critically important for the agency's controversial plan for revamping poultry inspection. Even with weekly testing, the agency should still implement its proposed changes incrementally instead of simultaneously to evaluate the effect of each change on rates of contamination.