The USDA has announced a five-year plan to reduce salmonella on raw meat and poultry products.

Officials with the Food Safety and Inspection Service want to reduce salmonella by changing the level of allowable contamination. The baseline contamination level would drop from 20 percent to 7.5 percent in broiler chickens, from 8.7 percent to 4 percent for market hogs, and from 7.5 percent to 4 percent for ground beef.

Most ground beef plants have been able to meet salmonella standards in the past, but the new standards have processors facing a whole new challenge. The National Meat Association predicts processors will find it more difficult to meet the new standards because of their inability to use anti-microbial intervention technology used by slaughter plants that eliminates the pathogen.

At this point it is unclear whether the FSIS plans to strictly monitor these new standards, or if the agency hopes that processors will achieve the new levels from their own initiative.

In addition to the reduction in salmonella, FSIS also wants to reduce the number of positive tests for listeria on ready-to-eat poultry and meat products by half by 2005.

National Meat Association