The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) plans to beef up its efforts to prevent the spread of Salmonella, the agency announced Tuesday. 

In a release, the agency said it is looking at a number of control and measurement strategies, including encouraging preharvest controls to reduce Salmonella contamination coming into the slaughterhouse, that it plans to use to determine the best approach for reducing Salmonella cases. 

“Far too many consumers become ill every year from poultry contaminated by Salmonella,” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release. “We need to be constantly evolving in our efforts to prevent foodborne illness to stay one step ahead of the bad bugs. Today we’re taking action to help prevent Salmonella contamination throughout the poultry supply chain and production system to protect public health.”

Salmonella causes over 1 million consumer illnesses, according to USDA. Over 23% of those cases come from chicken and turkey consumption.

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The FSIS is also planning to “strengthen FSIS’ partnership with the Research, Education and Economics mission area to address data gaps and develop new laboratory methods” and will be consulting the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria in Foods for input on possible approaches.

According to the release, USDA also plans to get feedback from the industry, consumer groups and researchers as it reexamines its Salmonella processes.

“Reducing Salmonella infections attributable to poultry is one of the department’s top priorities,” Sandra Eskin, the USDA deputy undersecretary who is leading the initiative, said in the release. “Time has shown that our current policies are not moving us closer to our public health goal. It’s time to rethink our approach.”

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