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USDA's New Performance Standards Should Bring Safer Poultry to Market

USDA's New Performance Standards Should Bring Safer Poultry to Market; Congress Must Reinstate Strong Enforcement Powers

Statement of U.S. PIRG Public Health Advocate Liz Hitchcock

WASHINGTON, May 10 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced new performance standards (PDF) for Salmonella and Campylobacter—the most common disease hazards in the meat and poultry supply. USDA has cut the target levels for Salmonella in poultry by over 60 percent, and set the first-ever performance standard for Campylobacter.

Florida PIRG Public Health Advocate Liz Hitchcock had the following statement:

We applaud USDA Secretary Vilsack for announcing these important and long overdue changes to improve the safety of poultry products. Pathogens like salmonella and campylobacter cause millions of illnesses each year. Beginning in July, poultry processors will be operating under a stricter testing standard for Salmonella, and for the first time, the same products will be evaluated for Campylobacter, the most common foodborne pathogen in poultry.

Chicken and turkey will be safer once these standards are implemented, especially if retailers avoid companies named by USDA as needing improvement. To ensure that consumers are protected o the greatest extent possible, Congress should reinstate USDA’s authority to enforce performance standards by closing failing plants.

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