US retail giant, Walmart, has announced that it will implement enhanced poultry safety measures for suppliers designed to further protect customers against foodborne illnesses.
The new guidelines are in addition to Walmart's food safety program that requires poultry suppliers to achieve prevention-based certification against one of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) internationally recognised standards.
"At Walmart and Sam's Club, we are committed to providing our customers with safe, quality foods," said vice president for food safety, Frank Yiannas. "As part of our continuous improvement process, we determined it was important to require additional layers of protection for our customers."
The new program requires Walmart and Sam's Club US poultry suppliers to implement holistic controls from farm to fork designed to significantly reduce potential contamination levels, including chicken parts. It also requires suppliers to undergo specialised testing to validate that the measures they have implemented are effective. All poultry suppliers must be in compliance with the new requirements by June 2016.
The enhanced protocol has been reviewed with numerous stakeholders including consumer groups, regulators, academicians, poultry suppliers and industry associations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has partnered with Walmart on this initiative to advance food safety and decrease foodborne illnesses among consumers.
Dr Chris Braden, director of CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases said, "CDC, along with Walmart, recognises that reducing Salmonella and other pathogen contamination in poultry products is a crucial step towards decreasing the burden of foodborne illnesses."
Dr Gary R. Acuff, director of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety applauded the company's work: "Walmart's implementation of enhanced safety measures for poultry products provides leadership for the food industry and continues a progressive approach to providing the safest possible food. This is a smart, science-supported move that will greatly benefit consumers."