Just cook it doesn’t cut it: Walmart shares latest Salmonella-in-poultry results

Joan Murphy of Agra-Net reports that Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, told the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo. that Walmart’s performance standards for suppliers of chicken parts are paying off, with the latest data showing a continuing reduction in Salmonella-positive products.

therm.turkey.oct_.13In 2014, Walmart announced new poultry safety measures to combat Salmonella and Campylobacter that require U.S. suppliers to “significantly reduce” potential contamination levels in whole chickens and chicken parts, and undergo specialized testing to validate the measures are effective.

The standards included new requirements for breeder stocks, an unusual request for a retailer, biocontrol measures, whole chicken process controls and chicken parts’ interventions. Walmart required at least a four log reduction in Salmonella on whole chickens and a one log reduction for chicken parts.

The first three standards went into effect in 2015, but suppliers of chicken parts had until June 2016 to comply, he said. Prior to launching the program, Walmart found 17% of chicken parts positive for Salmonella. In January 2016, the number was 5%, and by June 2016, Walmart reported only 2% of chicken parts tested positive for Salmonella.

Yiannas called the rate trend “extremely encouraging,” especially since Americans have moved away from buying whole chickens in favor of poultry parts like breasts, legs and wings. The levels of Salmonella are very low when the company does find the pathogen, he said.

In general, Yiannas said, companies need to move away from the old paradigm of “just cook it” for consumer education. “We need to just drop it.” Walmart has also learned that performance standards work better than prescriptive standards and that process control validations provide greater confidence than end product testing.