Samples in broilers, ground chicken and ground turkey testing positive for salmonella at US slaughter and processing plants have surged since 2002. As a result, poultry and meat processors face a safety crack down after the USDA proposed a more aggressive testing program to bring down the recent spike in Salmonella cases at their plants.

Broilers had the highest rates of salmonella, with 16.3 per cent of samples testing positive in 2005, up from 11.5 per cent in 2002.

"Our goal is to work proactively to reduce the presence of salmonella on raw products before plants develop a pattern of poor performance," USDA under secretary for food safety Richard Raymond stated. "FSIS will more quickly report testing results and target establishments needing improvement, providing timely information to both consumers and industry."

The FSIS plans to concentrating its testing at plants with higher levels of Salmonella. The unit will also make changes to the reporting and use of the FSIS’ Salmonella verification test results. Where FSIS has performed food safety assessments at plants that have persistently poor performance records for controlling Salmonella, there has been a dramatic reduction in the levels of the pathogen, the agency stated.