magnifyingglass.jpgRead Phyllis Entis’s blog post from today, “USDA’s Failed Salmonella Policy.” 35,000,000 of potentially contaminated ground turkey, at least 77 illnesses, and a death make you wonder whether, Phyllis, a long-time food safety microbiologist, may just know a thing or two about testing for Salmonella.  Not the symbolic actions that various food industries take, or have taken in the past, to show that “we have a testing program,” but real, meaningful tests that are actually intended to discover even low-level contamination. 

Phyllis’s critique of the sampling and testing methods currently in place:

Here are my problems with USDA’s method:

  • The first step in the procedure is to throw away excess fluid from the carcass – the very material that is most likely to contain Salmonella.
  • The carcass is rinsed with 400 ml (about 13.5 fluid ounces) of liquid – no problem there, if all of the liquid was used in the test. But USDA only uses 30 ml – less than 10% – of the rinse liquid for the Salmonella test.

In essence, USDA has dumbed down its Salmonella test, reducing the sensitivity of the test to less than 10% of what it should be – and easily could be.

USDA is fooling itself if the agency truly believes that its Salmonella data are valid. And it is misleading the US consumer.

30 mLs is not much, especially when you consider that the USDA actually tolerates a certain level of Salmonella contamination out of poultry production facilities, and that the sampling and testing programs currently in place actually succeed in detecting salmonella in about 10% of raw ground turkey samples!  Time to look again about how hard we’re actually looking for these bugs.