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Sponsored by Zoetis

Sponsored By Zoetis

PHT Perspectives

Coming together for food safety

Representatives from live production, processing, quality assurance and food safety shared ideas for taking an integrated, company-wide approach to managing Salmonella.


Many poultry companies are still struggling to reduce the prevalence of Salmonella — not only to protect public health and produce a wholesome product, but also to avoid the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Category 3 designation, which can compromise a company’s reputation as a dependable supplier.

Processing plants can no longer be expected to bear sole responsibility for controlling Salmonella. An integrated, company-wide effort involving all facets of production is needed to control this ubiquitous foodborne pathogen and maintain consumer confidence.

To help the poultry industry meet these goals, Zoetis brought together experts in food safety, processing and live production to share their expertise and experiences developing successful programs for managing Salmonella. This booklet features highlights from that informative discussion.

On behalf of my colleagues at Zoetis, I wish to thank our panelists for participating in this thought-provoking roundtable.

Director, Poultry Technical Services, Zoetis


President, Southern Poultry Research Group Inc.

Director of QA and Food Safety
Wayne Farms

Senior Public Health Veterinarian, Zoetis;
formerly Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

Senior Director, Live Operations
Mountaire Farms

Director of Food Safety and QA
George’s Poultry

Senior VP, Technical Services
Foster Farms

President, Alectryon LLC
(formerly with Fieldale Farms)

Senior VP, Technical Services and Innovation
Perdue Farms

Complex Manager
Tyson Foods

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because this year’s roundtable was a virtual event, Poultry Health Today editors were not able to take quality photos of the panelists during this session.

Chapter 1

Impact of FSIS categories on customer business


Some of you will remember when the responsibility for food safety was left primarily to the plant. Live production didn’t really worry about the plant meeting standards.

Aside from irradiation or cooking, we don’t have any lethal kill steps for foodborne pathogens like Salmonella. But now that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is tightening performance standards, live-side production and poultry processing are going to have to interact more.

For this roundtable, we’re going to discuss the impact of the FSIS performance standards on broiler companies. We’ll also address the organizational hurdles that might be in our way to further performance improvements. The questions I’ll ask will hopefully stimulate us to think through how we’re going to go forward.

Let’s start by talking about the impact of an FSIS Category 3 result at a processing plant. Do you have any struggles with customers when this happens


Initially when USDA started publishing results from FSIS testing at poultry processing plants, there was a lot of misunderstanding about the categories. It was not understood that Categories 1 and 2 actually meet regulatory standards.

We got a rush of requests from different customers asking what categories our plants were in. And a lot of customers said they would only get products from plants that were in Categories 1 and 2. It was very difficult.

I believe the situation is stable now, but I also believe it’s still having a big impact. There are customers who do not want products from plants in Category 3. We’ve been doing a lot of work with the industry and the other poultry companies explaining how the results are calculated. With a 52, 53 rolling window, it takes a year to remove a positive. So there’s still an educational process that’s needed, but it’s definitely a burden, especially in the sales arena.

…a lot of customers said they would only get products from plants that were in Categories 1 and 2. It was very difficult.



When the standard first was released by USDA, I think customers had more questions about plants that may have been in Category 3. However, as our customers started to understand the standard, I think they became more focused on what our data was showing.


Dr. O’Connor, you’re on the West Coast. Is the situation different there? Does the customer base you have put you under any greater pressure regarding FSIS categories?


We also initially had requests from customers who wanted to know what categories we were in. We received a form letter from one large box-store customer; we replied with a form letter and never heard from them again.

So, I don’t really feel like the categories are having the impact on the industry that FSIS intended them to. In my experience, I don’t think the original intention of FSIS (increased pressure from customers) has occurred. Customers realize that the sampling program and the ultimate categorization are more complex and challenging to move through (from Category 1 to 3) than it originally appeared.


In my role at Zoetis, I’ve been asked on several occasions by a customer with a plant that just moved into Category 3 to come in and conduct an investigation and analysis similar to what FSIS would do. Then I write a report so they can provide it to their fast-food customers. That’s because they have contracts with customers that specify the source material will only come from processing plants in Categories 1 or 2. So it has had an impact on those integrated companies that have contracts with fast-food services

Chapter 2:

Organizational obstacles to integrated Salmonella control

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