The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) has published new findings about the effectiveness of revised performance standards for Salmonella contamination of chicken parts. The study examines changes in Salmonella prevalence on chicken parts since FSIS’ first proposed new industry performance standards in 2015.

FSIS chose its Salmonella performance standards based on the assumption that a 30 percent reduction in the occurrence of Salmonella-contaminated chicken parts samples would result following the implementation of the performance-based standards program. The performance standards are based on FSIS slaughter establishment data and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) retail data that was collected prior to the implementation of the standards and in the intervening years. Overall changes in the Salmonella contamination of chicken parts were assessed and included in a historical review of how such changes relate to the performance standard.

The study revealed a 75 percent decrease in the occurrence of Salmonella-contaminated chicken parts at slaughter and in retail. Since the large reduction in Salmonella prevalence far surpassed what FSIS predicted would result from its new performance standards, FSIS hypothesizes that part of the reduction may have been caused by other factors, such as pressure placed on the chicken parts industry due to enhanced food safety requirements at retail, FSIS’ line speed waiver program, improved animal husbandry, and environmental changes.

The study also found that the peak season for Salmonella contamination of meat and poultry products had shifted from summer to winter. FSIS states that addressing seasonal changes in Salmonella can be a cost-effective opportunity for industry to reduce contamination by using specific interventions at certain times. Additionally, the study suggests the growing prevalence and antimicrobial resistance of Salmonella Infantis in the U.S.

FSIS notes that, while the data reflects a decrease in Salmonella contamination of poultry products, the trend has not translated to a reduction in foodborne illnesses caused by Salmonella-contaminated poultry products. According to FSIS, Salmonella causes over one million cases of consumer illness every year, 20 percent of which are linked to poultry consumption. Therefore, FSIS states that the agency is reevaluating the efficacy of its approach to controlling Salmonella and plans to release a draft framework for a revised strategy in the autumn of 2022. Through stakeholder collaboration and information-gathering, FSIS is also developing a multistep approach to reducing Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry products.