As many as 39,000 fewer Americans could get campylobacter and 26,000 fewer could get salmonella poisoning from chicken and turkey under new food safety rules announced Monday by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The bacteria, which can be life-threatening, are two of the most common causes of food-borne illness.
“These standards will have probably the greatest public impact for consumers’ health since anything USDA has adopted in the last 15 years,” says Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C.
Under the new standards, only 7.5% of chicken carcasses at a plant would be allowed to test positive for salmonella, down from 20% allowed since 1996. Salmonella levels in chickens were tested at 7.1% nationally in 2009, says Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council.
Someone will have to explain how 7.5% is acceptable.