US GAO calls for stricter policies for poultry handling processing plants

The U.S. GAO is asking the USDA to increase its safety performance with processing facilities and poultry.

The U.S. GAO is asking the USDA to increase its safety performance with processing facilities and poultry.

A new report was released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which stated the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) could add more stipulations to poultry handling in food processing facilities to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination, Food Engineering Magazine reported.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in the GAO report, each year, there are more than 2 million human illnesses from poultry products that are contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter pathogens. Additionally, more than any other pathogens, Salmonella and Campylobacter contaminations cause the most deaths per year.

Food processing facilities may see additional regulation
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) could be increasing its efforts to protect humans from contamination in poultry products once the agency revises its Salmonella regulations, Food Safety News reported. The concern is with ground chicken and ground turkey, and the GAO recommends the Secretary of Agriculture should do more to monitor processing plants and make sure they are following compliance standards.

More directly, the GAO is trying to get FSIS to inspect more processing facilities and their young chicken and turkey carcasses, which can be prone to carry more contaminated pathogens, the source reported.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kristen Gillbrand (D-N.Y.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) requested the USDA to increase its efforts to limit contaminated pathogens in the report, Food Poisoning Bulletin reported.

"The GAO report confirms that USDA's pathogen standards for poultry products do not adequately protect public health," Senator Feinstein explained in the report, according to the source. "Strong new standards are desperately needed to reduce contamination and safeguard consumers from Salmonella and Campylobacter. I urge USDA to finalize strong standards, which it has committed to doing before the end of the year, so they can be implemented and improve food safety."

The report explained when food processing facilities handle poultry carcasses without the right performance regulations, the USDA is not able to measure the effects through testing. This prevents the agency from maximizing domestic compliance with food safety compliance, the source reported.

Food processing facilities need equipment that can not only limit contamination, but that is also easy to clean and maintain. Processing plants should invest in sanitary stainless steel shell and tube heat exchangers to limit bacteria growth in their products, as these pieces of equipment are used to pasteurize product, heat up cleaning solutions, and are easily cleanable themselves.

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