USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Wednesday proposed long-awaited federal standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter testing in chicken parts (breasts, legs, and wings), ground chicken, and ground turkey.

FSIS has proposed that the performance standard for Salmonella on chicken parts be 15.4 percent (8 out of 52). The proposed performance standard for Campylobacter for chicken parts is 7.7 percent (4 out of 52). Additionally for comminuted chicken the proposed performance standard for Salmonella will be 25 percent (13 out of 52). The performance standard for Campylobacter for comminuted chicken will be 1.9 percent (1 out of 52). The Federal Register notice is available here.

Dr. Ashley Peterson, NCC’s vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, said in a statement that since the fall of 2013, NCC and its members have been collectively exploring all options to reduce contamination on chicken parts in order to provide the safest product possible to our consumers, including strengthened sanitation programs, temperature controls and various interventions in chicken processing. “This is something the industry has been proactively working to address, so when the performance standards for chicken parts are put in place by FSIS, we will be meeting or exceeding the standards, as we currently do for whole carcasses,” she said.

Peterson noted that the industry has made tremendous progress in reducing Salmonella on raw chicken to all-time low levels, but reminded consumers that even at very low levels, any raw agricultural product could make someone sick if improperly handled or cooked. “Our members are investing heavily in food safety research and are using the best science, research and technology available to break the chain of Salmonella at every stage of production. Coupled with continuous USDA inspection and proper handling and cooking to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, chicken is safe to eat 100 percent of the time.”

According to the agency, the proposed pathogen reduction performance standard is designed to achieve at least a 30-percent reduction in illnesses from salmonella and to reduce illness from Campylobacter by at least 9 percent and as much as 37 percent.  Development of these new standards is part of the FSIS Salmonella Action Plan, launched in December 2013 to reduce Salmonella illnesses from meat and poultry products. FSIS previously implemented performance standards for whole chicken carcasses in 1996.

NCC is reviewing the proposed new federal standards in their entirety and will provide comments to the agency.  FSIS said it will announce final standards and an implementation date sometime this spring.