Chicken producers & salmonella (Aug. 2014)

How Foster Farms Is Solving The Case Of The Mystery Salmonella
August 28, 2014
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/08/28/342166299/how-foster-farms-is-solving-the-case-of-the-mystery-salmonella

Scientists have tested some flocks of chickens in the U.S. and Europe and found salmonella in anywhere from 7 to 70 percent of all live birds.

That’s disturbing, because people eventually will eat them. Fully cooking chicken does kill the bacteria. But if salmonella on raw chicken gets on your cutting board and then contaminates, say, some carrots, it can make you really sick.

chicken houses, for example, are designed to keep out wildlife, like mice or wild birds, that carry the bacteria. When chickens are slaughtered, the carcasses are washed with antimicrobial solutions.

According to USDA regulations, no more than 7.5 percent of the chicken carcasses coming from a chicken plant can test positive for salmonella.

last summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found evidence that chicken from Foster Farms had caused a wave of salmonella infections. More than 600 people had gotten sick.

they took samples of what most consumers actually buy: the cut-up parts, such as breasts, thighs and wings.
What they found is now shaking up the whole poultry industry. Their tests showed salmonella on about 25 percent of those cut-up chicken parts.

David Acheson, a former associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, says this pattern has been discovered at other poultry companies, too. Whole carcasses are largely free of salmonella, but then the bacteria appear on nearly a quarter of the chicken parts.

when they’re cut up into parts, they warm up about 10 degrees. That warmth may release salmonella that was trapped in skin pores of the chilled carcass.
If any salmonella bacteria are present, the process of cutting up the carcass may spread the microbes around, contaminating lots of chicken parts.

The share of chicken parts that tested positive for salmonella fell from 20 percent to less than 5 percent.

Others, like Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who makes his living suing companies when their food makes people sick, say it’s not good enough. “The standard is, it’s still OK to have a pathogen on your product that can sicken and kill your customers. And as long as that’s the way it is, we’re always going to limp from outbreak to outbreak to outbreak,” he says.

When the USDA declared these E. coli bacteria illegal adulterants in food, the meat industry complained, but it also found new ways to prevent them from poisoning people.

Eliminating salmonella altogether would be difficult — it’s much more common in the environment than disease-causing E. coli.

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