USDA Inspection Standards for Chicken Aren't Cutting It


New Report Says Federal Safety Standards Leave Consumers at Risk

In the United States, most consumers trust that food products inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not infect them with a dangerous foodborne illness spawning days of stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea. However, food poisoning outbreaks in the U.S.—particularly Salmonella—occur all too frequently, and a new report says the USDA's Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) isn't doing enough to keep our food Salmonella-free.

Each year nearly 42,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States. Salmonella can be found in foods like meat products or eggs that have been contaminated with animal feces, but the majority of outbreaks over the last two decades occurred in chicken.

The report from Pew Charitable Trusts examined two recent Salmonella outbreaks linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms in California. These outbreaks caused over 500 people to become ill over the course of a year. According to the report, the safety standards that the FSIS had in place did not properly deal with the outbreak: this includes letting chicken products with "worrisome" levels of bacteria pass inspection.

According to a separate report, "worrisome" amounts of bacteria were also found in every one of the four major chicken brands tested for foodborne illness. Both reports highlight the prevalence of dangerous bacteria in a food product that Americans consume mass quantities of each day.

Source: “Report: USDA should do more to fight salmonella.” December 19, 2013.