On Monday afternoon at the 2022 International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Annual Meeting, Frank Yiannas, MPH, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Sandra Eskin, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS), took the stage to provide U.S. regulatory updates on food safety.


Ms. Eskin focused on FSIS’ efforts to reduce foodborne illness outbreaks linked to poultry contaminated with Salmonella. She highlighted FSIS’ recent announcement that it will declare Salmonella to be an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products. FSIS will propose a Salmonella limit of 1 colony forming unit (CFU) per gram. Ms. Eskin also stated that naming Salmonella an adulterant will allow FSIS to take regulatory action against specified products that are contaminated beyond the threshold for the pathogen. In response to attendee questions, Ms. Eskin clarified that the Salmonella limit proposed by FSIS is scientifically based, and that constituents can expect the official notice for the action to be published in the Federal Register in October 2022.

Alongside FSIS’ official notice for breaded and stuffed raw chicken products, the agency also aims to publish a draft for a new, proposed Salmonella strategy in October 2022, which will be followed by a public meeting in November to evaluate the appropriateness of the strategy’s specifics. The proposed Salmonella strategy is intended to mitigate Salmonella in poultry products by addressing the contamination of birds when they are received by a processing plant. Features of the plan include setting targets for Salmonella load on incoming birds and encouraging hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plans for birds at receiving. Ms. Eskin also emphasized that FSIS is not requiring specific pre-harvest controls; rather, the agency will allow each operation the flexibility to apply the most appropriate controls.

Additionally, in response to an attendee inquiry, Ms. Eskin defined USDA FSIS’ authority to enforce product standards. She explained that naming a pathogen as an adulterant allows the agency to take regulatory actions when specified products are non-compliant. “[Products are] adulterated if they have more than a certain amount of bacteria,” she said. “[USDA] can deploy all of its enforcement tools—up to pulling inspectors from a plant—if it violates the standard… [enforcement] is grounded in the determination of adulteration under the law.” Ms. Eskin further elaborated on USDA-FSIS’ enforcement abilities in response to an additional attendee comment on the topic, expressing that the agency is challenged due to it not having authority over animal farms. Finally, Ms. Eskin stated that the standards set by FSIS will be based on individual operations using an approach called “statistical process control.”


Mr. Yiannas’ presentation revolved around FDA’s work in furthering the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the New Era of Smarter Food Safety. The core of his message related to leveraging modern technology—especially data-informed traceability—to mitigate the public health burden of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. Mr. Yiannas began by asking the audience to envision a “transparent and data-rich” future in which “all the information we ever need to know about food is at our fingertips.” He mused about possible future goals that could be achieved by leveraging data, such as product traceback that takes moments or days rather than weeks or months. “We are in a food revolution,” he continued, describing the ways in which the global food system has become increasingly complex over time.

According to Mr. Yiannas, in order to ensure food safety in a changing world, food stakeholders are going to need to “think and act differently” because today’s challenges differ from those of the past. He explained that, for two decades, the U.S. has not made progress in its battle against foodborne illness, citing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Mr. Yiannas described several ways in which FDA is attempting to modernize its approach to food safety. For instance, the FSMA Food Traceability Rule, which FDA anticipates will be finalized in November 2022, will create a universal language and information highway for food data to be exchanged. He expressed that the early results of such efforts have shown promise. Being able to take the large volume of data that exists and convert it into actionable insights will be a “game-changer for predictive, prescriptive, and preventive information,” Mr. Yiannas said, continuing, “…better food safety begins and ends with better data.” Mr. Yiannas also highlighted FDA’s 21 Forward Food Supply Chain Platform as an example of how data can be successfully leveraged, stating his belief that it made a positive difference in how FDA responded to the recent infant formula supply crisis.

Mr. Yiannas finished by asking the food community to join him and FDA in taking a “quantum leap” in food safety advancements by leveraging modern technology and engaging in transparent data-sharing. “Now is not the time for small steps at FDA, nor your organization,” he said.

In response to an attendee question, Mr. Yiannas commented on FDA’s efforts to improve the data analytics capacity of the food safety community and to cultivate a pipeline of data analysts. He described the importance of taking a “key data element approach” to standardizing the type of data required for certain objectives, driving inoperability. He stated that regulators should write laws through a modern lens, staying mindful of future data applications. Mr. Yiannas also stated that, although the “great resignation” has affected FDA, the agency is constantly recruiting the next generation of food safety professionals and is creatively hiring across disciplines. He stated that data analysts, food safety experts, and supply chain experts do not have to be one and the same—they simply must be able to work together effectively. “We are moving toward a future where anything that can have a digital footprint, does,” he said.

The 2022 IAFP Annual Meeting is taking place July 31–August 3 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.