The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) has announced that it will declare Salmonella to be an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products. By declaring Salmonella to be an adulterant, FSIS will have the authority to ensure that contaminated products do not enter the market. The action is part of FSIS’ broader efforts to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry.

Breaded and stuffed raw chicken products are of particular concern because they have been linked to 14 foodborne illness outbreaks and 200 illnesses since 1998. Breaded and stuffed raw chicken products are typically found in the freezer section at grocery stores, and may cause confusion as they can appear cooked; FSIS states that efforts to improve labeling for the products has not been effective at reducing consumer illnesses. Cordon bleu and chicken Kiev are examples of such products.

FSIS will propose to set the Salmonella limit of breaded and stuffed raw chicken products at 1 colony forming unit (CFU) per gram. If the products exceed the limit, then they will be considered adulterated and be subject to regulatory action. FSIS will also consider public opinion on whether a different standard for adulteration, such as “zero tolerance” or standards based on specific serotypes, would be more appropriate.

The notice is expected to publish in the Federal Register in autumn, and FSIS will be seeking public comments that address what the standard should encompass, as well as to inform a final implementation plan, including a verification testing program. Once published, the notice will be posted in FSIS’ “Federal Register and Rulemaking” page for review and comment. When the proposal is finalized, FSIS will announce its final implementation plans and the date on which it will begin routine testing for Salmonella in the specified products.