The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a stricter limit on salmonella bacteria in poultry products. According to an NPR news report, salmonella bacteria on raw poultry and fresh produce are estimated to cause about one million cases of food poisoning in the United States each year. It has proved difficult to bring that number down because salmonella bacteria are so commonly found in the environment, particularly in poultry. Tests by the USDA show that roughly 25 percent of the chicken parts U.S. consumers buy are contaminated with salmonella.
Reducing Bacterial Contamination
The USDA has found the bacteria on a quarter of all cut-up chicken parts heading for supermarket shelves even after companies wash chicken carcasses after slaughter. Under the new USDA food safety standard, companies will be required to reduce the frequency of chicken parts contaminated with salmonella to 15 percent or less.
The new regulation also sets limits for turkey and ground meat products. USDA will start posting test results from each poultry processing plant online for consumers to see after a year of testing. Officials hope this will give manufacturers the incentive to clean up their act. If companies meet this standard, the USDA estimates and 50,000 fewer people will get sick from salmonella each year.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 380 people die and 19,000 are hospitalized each year as a result of salmonella infections in the United States. Symptoms of salmonella include severe abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever that begins about 12 to 72 hours after a person is exposed to the bacteria. Most people recover in four to seven days. But those affected may also suffer long-term health complications. The infection seriously affects young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Exercising Care with Poultry
There are steps you can take to prevent salmonella infections through poultry:
• Wash hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils well with soap and hot water immediately after they have been in contact with poultry – fresh or frozen.
• Separate poultry from other foods in your shopping cart, kitchen and refrigerator.
• Do not rinse raw poultry in the sink.
• Cook poultry thoroughly to at least an internal temperature of 165 °F. Leftovers should be refrigerated no more than two hours after cooking.
• Poultry products must be promptly refrigerated after you purchase them.
If you or a loved one has suffered salmonella poisoning, please contact an experienced California food poisoning attorney to obtain more information about your legal rights and options.