Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: USDA declares salmonella an adulterant
Overview: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared salmonella an adulterant – that is, a contaminant that causes health concerns – in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products.
Location: United States
Population: 335.1 million
Food policy category: Food safety
Program goals: To decrease the incidence of salmonella infection (salmonellosis) in humans.
How it works: USDA will begin testing for salmonella bacteria in raw chicken products that are breaded and stuffed and typically sold frozen. These chicken products will be considered adulterated if they exceed a low level (likely to be set at one colony-forming unit (CFU), but may be set even stricter at zero tolerance) of Salmonella contamination. If the product exceeds the designated acceptable level of contamination, the product will not be sold. Companies that sell these products must recall them if they might be contaminated, even if they have not caused illness.
Progress to date: On October 19, 2021, USDA announced a new commitment to reducing salmonella contamination and poisoning from poultry products. The declaration of salmonella as an adulterant in breaded and stuffed chicken products came on August 1, 2022. In October of 2022, USDA will propose a comprehensive strategy for reducing poultry-related salmonella illnesses that will be discussed at a public meeting in November.
Why it is important: Each year, salmonella causes 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States, and 25 percent of salmonella infections are caused by consuming contaminated poultry. Breaded and stuffed chicken products are heat-treated to set the breading prior to freezing, but the poultry itself is still raw. The darker color of the breading is often confusing to consumers who believe the whole product has been fully cooked. These poultry products have been associated with up to 14 outbreaks and 200 illnesses since 1998.
Program/Policy initiated: The declaration was made by USDA on August 1, 2022.
Point of contact:
Similar practices: None known.
- The Adulterating Foodborne Pathogens: Meat, Poultry, and Some Egg Products (The National Agricultural Law Center)
- Chicken and Food Poisoning (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- National Chicken Council Objects to USDA Plan to Name Salmonella as Adulterant in Some Chicken Products (Food Safety News)
- Salmonella Contamination Not Unusual in Chicken (Food Safety News)
- USDA Labels Salmonella ‘Adulterant’ to Combat Bacteria in Poultry (Bloomberg)
- USDA to Declare Salmonella an Adulterant in Some Raw Poultry (The National Law Review)
- Foodborne Illness Source Attribution Estimates for 2019 for Salmonella, Escherichia Coli O157, Listeria Monocytogenes, and Campylobacter Using Multi-Year Outbreak Surveillance Data, United States (The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration)
- Healthy People 2030 (United States Department of Health and Human Services)
- New USDA Policy Will Reject Some Salmonella-Contaminated Poultry Products (Food Dive)
- Reduce Infections Caused by Salmonella — FS‑04 (United States Department of Health and Human Services)
- Salmonella (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- USDA Announces Action to Declare Salmonella an Adulterant in Breaded Stuffed Raw Chicken Products (United States Department of Agriculture)
- USDA Launches New Effort to Reduce Salmonella Illnesses Linked to Poultry (United States Department of Agriculture)
- USDA Will No Longer Allow Salmonella in Breaded, Stuffed Chicken (Consumer Reports)