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WASHINGTON - Agriculture secretary Ann M. Veneman announced yesterday that the rate of salmonella in raw meat and poultry has dropped by 66 percent over the past six years and by 16 percent compared with 2002.
"These results show that we are making progress in our efforts to enhance meat and poultry inspection systems. This is good news for consumers," Veneman said.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health regulatory agency responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. FSIS has more than 8,000 inspection personnel stationed in meat and poultry plants across the nation to ensure compliance with federal laws and regulations.
Of the random samples collected and analyzed between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 by FSIS, 3.6 percent tested positive for Salmonella, as compared with 4.29 percent in 2002, 5.03 percent in 2001, 5.31 percent in 2000, 7.26 percent in 1999, and 10.65 percent in 1998.
"These figures demonstrate that strong, science-based enforcement of food safety rules is driving down the rate of salmonella," added Elsa Murano, food safety undersecretary.
Yesterday's announcement follows USDA's recent findings that showed similar reductions in E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef and listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products.
Earlier this year USDA outlined a series of new science-based initiatives to better understand, predict, and prevent microbiological contamination of meat and poultry products, thereby improving health outcomes for American families. These steps include increased training of inspectors, expediting the approval of new technologies, creation of a risk assessment coordination team, and conducting research on priority areas.
Veneman said that USDA is working to continue enhancing consumer education through a variety of programs, including a traveling Food Safety Mobile that takes information directly to consumers.
"It is important that consumers and food handlers know how to properly cook and handle food," Veneman said. "USDA has a wealth of information available."