Standards would be the first limiting pathogens in pork since 2011
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create Salmonella performance standards for pork processors. These standards would be the first limiting pathogens in pork since the USDA stopped testing under earlier standards in 2011.
An estimated 12.8 percent of Salmonella illnesses are caused by pork, a level only surpassed by poultry for USDA regulated products. The agency stopped testing to verify their original pork standards in 2011 due to low positive Salmonella testing rates of carcasses, and since then the pork industry has not been required to meet standards limiting Salmonella contamination.
The new standards proposed by the USDA allow for only a certain amount of positive Salmonella tests in a year for each slaughter or processing establishment. Plants that fail the standard can still produce pork, but USDA will publicly post each establishment’s performance, creating opportunities for grocery stores and other buyers to shop for the safest products. This creates market pressure to improve: when USDA posted the performance of poultry processors in 2006, Salmonella rates in poultry dropped by 60 percent.
In addition to creating market pressure through public posting, USDA can target additional regulatory resources towards establishments that fail the standards.
“The proposed standards will push pork companies to ensure that their Salmonella control programs are as effective as possible,” said CSPI food safety campaign manager Dr. James Kincheloe. “This is a good step in improving our ability to make sure that the food reaching consumers is safe.”
In comments filed today with USDA, CSPI also urged the agency to work to develop stronger standards that target the most dangerous types of Salmonella contamination. CSPI and other consumer groups petitioned USDA in 2021 to create enforceable, risk-based Salmonella standards for poultry, and urges the agency to consider similar measures for pork.
“USDA needs to quickly move to create standards that target the most dangerous types of Salmonella contamination and stop these products from being sold to consumers,” said Dr. Kincheloe.