Improved performance on pathogen tests by chicken plants correlated with regulatory actions

A chart showing the share of U.S. broiler samples testing positive for Salmonella.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) tests chicken and turkey carcasses as well as ground meats and poultry and chicken parts for non-typhoidal Salmonella in meat and poultry plants. Until 2008, plant performance on these tests was not disclosed to the public. In 2006, FSIS enacted an easy-to-understand metric for rating a chicken plant’s performance on Salmonella tests, and from 2008 to 2010, disclosed the identities of plants with mediocre or poor performance on the agency’s Web site. In 2011, FSIS established a stricter performance standard for chicken plants. A recent ERS report explored the impact of FSIS’s efforts to provide better and more information on chicken plants’ performance on Salmonella tests and the impact of the 2011 revision to the Salmonella performance standard for chicken. The researchers accounted for plant-level factors, such as the size and age of the plant, to isolate the effect of the policy changes on Salmonella levels. During 2006-14, the share of samples of broilers testing positive for Salmonella dropped from about 14 to 2 percent. ERS analysis found that 75 percent of the decline correlated with the timing of FSIS’s disclosure policy and the 2011 standard. This chart appears in the ERS report, Public Disclosure of Tests for Salmonella: The Effects on Food Safety Performance in Chicken Slaughter Establishments, and the Amber Waves article, "Regulation, Market Signals, and the Provision of Food Safety in Meat and Poultry," released on May 26, 2017.

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