About half of ground chicken is contaminated with Salmonella, but the bacteria is typically killed with proper cooking. It can cause food poisoning in consumers who mishandle or undercook poultry. The new rules are aimed at reducing contamination levels to about 25% of tested samples.
The proposed federal regulations would include ground chicken and turkey as well as raw breasts, legs, and wings.
The acceptable level of Salmonella in raw chicken parts would be reduced to 15.4% from 24%. The rate of Campylobacter in raw chicken parts would be reduced to 8% from 22%. Acceptable contamination levels would also be reduced for ground chicken and turkey.
Sampling would also be done over a longer period of time to improve accuracy.
Unlike contaminants like E. coli in ground beef, the USDA allows some level of Salmonella and Campylobacter because poultry is not typically eaten rare or medium-rare like steak.
Even so, about 1 million cases of salmonellosis and 1.3 million cases of campylobacteriosis are reported every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The USDA believes they can prevent an average of 50,000 cases of food poisoning every year by reducing consumer exposure to Salmonella by at least 30% and Campylobacter by at least 19-37%.
The proposal follows an outbreak of salmonellosis in 2013 and 2014 linked to chicken from Foster Farms. More than 600 people were infected, including 40% who were hospitalized. The outbreak was exacerbated because the strains of Salmonella were antibiotic-resistant.
The proposed regulations do not address antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella, which some critics have argued should be banned like E. coli.
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