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USDA Launches Effort to Reduce Salmonella Illness Linked to Poultry

USDA Launches Effort to Reduce Salmonella Illness Linked to Poultry

Almost 300,000 people each year in the U.S. are sickened by poultry contaminated by salmonella, a leading cause of foodborne illness. But a new initiative by the Department of Agriculture aims to cut that number by 25 percent.

“Far too many consumers become ill every year from poultry contaminated by salmonella,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Today we’re taking action to help prevent salmonella contamination throughout the poultry supply chain and production system to protect public health.” 

Specifically, the agency announced that it will collaborate with industry, researchers, and consumer advocacy groups such as the Coalition for Poultry Safety Reform (which includes Consumer Reports), on how best to control deadly strains of the bacteria both before and after poultry arrives at the meat-processing plants.

The agency plans to increase the number of poultry samples tested each year and take into account the amount of salmonella in each sample, not just the presence of the bacteria. That’s important because the more salmonella in a chicken, the more likely someone is to get sick. 

What’s more, because not all strains of salmonella are equally dangerous, the agency will focus on the most virulent, potentially dangerous strains of the bacteria. 

“Time has shown that our current policies are not moving us closer to our public-health goal,” USDA Deputy Undersecretary Sandra Eskin, who is leading the initiative, said in a statement. “It’s time to rethink our approach.” 

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