Center for Science in the Public Interest

Tell the USDA: Clean Up Our Poultry

Poultry is a leading cause of Salmonella, yet USDA's current standards for chicken and turkey have done little to control the illness. This summer, USDA announced it's considering banning the worst types of Salmonella contamination from raw poultry, just like it's done for dangerous strains of E. coli in ground beef. Tell the USDA that consumers support this move to make poultry safer.


Dear Secretary Vilsack, 

The undersigned consumers support the US Department of Agriculture in developing stronger standards for controlling Salmonella in poultry products. Such standards are long overdue. For years, Salmonella has been a leading cause of hospitalization and death from foodborne illness, and poultry is the leading cause of Salmonellosis. 

The USDA banned another dangerous bacteria, E coli O157:H7, from ground beef in the 1990s, successfully reducing illnesses. But the agency has made little progress in regulating poultry. Current USDA standards for poultry fail to ban the most dangerous contamination from raw poultry products. That means poultry meat can be contaminated with high levels of dangerous strains of Salmonella bacteria and still be stamped “USDA Inspected.” These products are then placed on store shelves alongside identical products that are free of dangerous contamination. It's a system that makes no sense for consumers, and it hasn't worked for public health. 

That's why it's encouraging that the USDA put out a proposal this summer announcing it is considering a new framework for regulating Salmonella to make products safer from farm to fork. The framework includes a proposal to declare Salmonella an adulterant, just as the agency did with E coli in ground beef. This could ban the most dangerous types of Salmonella contamination from raw poultry.  

We agree: to protect public health, USDA regulations should prevent raw chicken and turkey contaminated with high-risk Salmonella from being sold to consumers. We support strong standards that declare Salmonella an adulterant, just as the agency did with E coli in ground beef. These standards should be designed to reduce rates of foodborne illness. In developing the new standards, the agency should consider the type of Salmonella, dose needed to cause illness, and other factors that could impact illness rates, like typical consumer cooking practices. 

We are also encouraged by the framework's proposal to create incentives for producers to use best practices for preventing Salmonella on-farm, where dangerous strains of Salmonella can spread from bird to bird. We urge the agency to continue to look for ways to promote these best practices, which have the potential to increase the safety of our food supply and reduce illness. 

Thank you for your efforts to re-think the ways the USDA regulates poultry and makes improvements that will protect consumers.  
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