WASHINGTON – The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture released results from a non-scientific study with Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) laboratories as it gathers more data on not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) breaded stuffed chicken products.

Using FERN, the FSIS worked with 11 state labs to participate in the survey. Results from the report showed that 58 of the 487 samples tested were positive for Salmonella after the labs bought locally available NRTE breaded products.

The study occurred between July 1, 2022 and Sept. 30, 2022. Each lab bought 15 samples of product per month at nearby retail stores.

“While the prevalence of Salmonella contamination in regulated poultry products has decreased by more than 50% in recent years, there has not been a reduction in human illnesses attributable to poultry,” FSIS said in the report.

When reporting the numbers the agency said there was a difference in positivity rates between laboratories that used methods that were the same as FSIS while using larger test portions (36 out of 135, or 27%) and laboratories that used methods different from FSIS that used smaller test portions (22 of 352, 6%).

“Small amounts of Salmonella present in the product or uneven distribution of Salmonella contamination could account for the lower positivity rates when smaller sample portions were tested. Total aerobic counts were similar across products tested,” FSIS said in the report. 

Whole genome sequencing of Salmonella detected Salmonella Enteritidis (18/58), Salmonella Infantis (22/58), Salmonella Kentucky (15/58) and Salmonella Typhimurium (3/58).

In April 2023, FSIS released “a proposed determination” to declare Salmonella an adulterant in breaded stuffed raw chicken products when such products exceed a very low level of Salmonella contamination. According to the FSIS website, the agency will seek public comment on the guideline until July 27. 

The comment period was extended after industry associations asked for additional time for comments regarding the impact of the proposal.