Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road... Because Walmart Led the Way

Posted by Kenna Smith, Field Application Specialist on Sep 13, 2016 2:49:56 PM


Every year at the International Association of Food Protection there are fabulous presentations and this year in St. Louis was no exception. One in particular was by Frank Yiannis, Vice President of Food Safety for Walmart, in which he discussed the great leaps and bounds his company has been making in effort to reduce the levels of Salmonella in chicken parts sold at their stores. Salmonella accounts for 380 deaths and 19,000 illnesses each year with as many as 19% of salmonellosis cases linked to poultry products, so it is a significant public health concern. Although more stringent performance standards for Salmonella have recently been set by the USDA for poultry processors, raw poultry products are still considered high risk. This was not going to be a quick and easy fix. However, Walmart was determined to reduce this risk for its customers by implementing a set of food safety requirements via a four-part plan and working closely with suppliers to get it done. When this initiative was first launched, their prevalence was around 17%. But by January of this year, they were testing at 5% and then even lower in June at only 2%.

Walmart’s 2% Salmonella rate is a product of the company’s mandated food safety interventions such as vaccinations, whole chicken processing, and other data driven requirements. What’s most fascinating about this? Their suppliers are implementing these practices across all of their facilities, and so the industry is now experiencing these same reductions as a whole. In the words of Ben Chapman of UNC and Food Safety Talk: “That’s noble [and] kind of insane.”

Despite the many costly recalls this year that have been linked to ingredients, too often we hear from retailers that they cannot dictate food safety requirements to their suppliers outside of a cursory COA. This has been proven incorrect in the past by Costco, with their public food safety requirements and is now shown again by Walmart’s poultry revolution. With FSMA and WGS in the government’s arsenal, there is no more excuse that the supply chain is too tight. Contaminated food is being found - it’s time to start leading the industry to safer food products and driving the right food safety culture throughout the supply chain.

I know where I’m going to buy my chicken. 

Pathogen test traceability and transparency is critical to provide confidence to food manufacturers that their food safety programs are effective. All pathogen methods are not the same and therefore the quality of the result can vary. To learn how the results on a Certificate of Analysis are obtained and how method risk impacts confidence in these certificates, download our presentation today.

Behind the Certificate of Analysis:   Risk Assessment in Pathogen Testing Methods


Topics: pathogen testing, food safety, supply chain, walmart, salmonella in poultry