Senators press USDA on food safety standards
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WASHINGTON, April 16, 2014 - Three senators urged USDA today to develop food safety standards that would significantly reduce levels of salmonella and campylobacter in chicken and turkey products.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the issue. “We write to urge you to develop strong performance standards for poultry products that will significantly reduce foodborne illnesses and deaths,” the senators wrote. “We are very concerned about the current levels of salmonella and campylobacter on poultry products, and believe new pathogen standards should reduce these rates of contamination.”
The senators said several studies have indicated “startlingly” high rates of the two bacteria in grocery store chicken. One study found 47 percent of chicken breasts tested positive for campylobacter, another found over 40 percent of ground chicken tested positive for salmonella, the senators said. Also, they said a USDA study found contamination of poultry parts at levels over 20 percent.
The letter comes after a USDA official recently announced the department's plan to finalize a proposed rule by the end of the year that seeks to create a new speedier inspection system at poultry slaughter plants.
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