WASHINGTON — The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has initiated an “action plan” it says will address one of the most pressing problems the agency faces – Salmonella in meat and poultry products.

“Far too many Americans are sickened by Salmonella every year,” said Elizabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety. “The aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella action plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer.”

The plan includes a multi-prong approach for reducing the incidence of Salmonella in meat and poultry products. One strategy would involve the finalization of the F.S.I.S.’s proposed poultry slaughter rule. The agency said the rule is important, because it will shift in-plant inspection activities to focusing solely on food safety issues.

The F.S.I.S. also will focus on improving and possibly expanding its microbial sampling and testing protocol as it relates to Salmonella. Specific actions currently under way include the testing of comminuted poultry products to generate data in order to develop a new performance standard; continue to investigate whether there are products currently not being sampled and tested that should be; and research developing a Salmonella sampling program for pork products, including the generation of a performance standard.

The action plan also will put a processing plant’s past performance as it relates to Salmonella into better context for inspection personnel. Information about a plant’s past performance may help inspectors assess a plant’s overall performance, identify areas of concern and provide the basis for enforcement action, if necessary.

In addition to developing a performance standard for pork, the U.S.D.A. plans to develop a directive for the sanitary dressing of hog carcasses. There is evidence from outbreak data that pork products contribute to Salmonella illnesses, according to the action plan, and decreasing sanitary dressing problems in hog slaughter establishments may decrease a source of Salmonella on carcasses.

A complete copy of the U.S.D.A.’sSalmonellaaction plan may be viewed by following this link:Salmonella plan