Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Salmonella Outbreaks Could Worsen with Decreased Poultry Inspections

Health + Wellness

Food & Water Watch

By Tony Corbo

In the August 4 edition of the Washington Post, investigative reporter Kimberly Kindy unmasked a potential scam that has been going on at U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regarding its salmonella testing program for poultry products. In her article, various scientists raised questions about the protocol FSIS uses to evaluate the results of the tests it conducts.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

In large chicken processing facilities, where the line speeds can run in excess of 175 birds per minute, chemical interventions are used to douse the birds as a way to clean off fecal and digestive content materials from the carcasses. These materials are frequently the reservoirs for food borne pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter, and the chemicals are used to reduce the number of bacteria carried on the bird carcasses. FSIS conducts periodic government sampling and testing of chicken carcasses to evaluate how well the companies are doing in controlling the levels of salmonella and campylobacter.

As Ms. Kindy explained in her article, when FSIS collects its samples, an inspector will take birds off the slaughter line after they’ve gone through the chemical treatments, putting the birds in a plastic bag filled with a solution that collects any remaining pathogens that are on the carcasses. The birds are re-hung on the slaughter line where they are further processed and put into commerce. The plastic bags filled with the solution are sent off to an FSIS lab for analysis. Results are often reported within 24 hours of the lab receiving the sample. 

For the testing to be accurate, the solution in those plastic bags must neutralize any remaining chemical interventions left on the bird carcass. What the Washington Post found in its investigation is that some companies are using new chemical compounds so powerful that they continue to work even in the solution FSIS uses to collect its samples, thus giving off false negative readings as to the levels of pathogens remaining on the birds.

While FSIS has been reporting in recent years that the levels of salmonella have been decreasing through its regulatory sampling in chicken plants (the agency just started to test for campylobacter in 2012), the Centers for Disease Control, the agency that monitors food borne illness outbreaks, has been reporting that numbers of consumers getting sick from salmonella remain stubbornly high. While there are other food vehicles often involved in these salmonella outbreaks, contaminated poultry remains a major source for these illnesses.

At Food & Water Watch, we have been suspicious of the FSIS testing program for a very long time. While FSIS claims that the government testing is unannounced, the companies always know when they are about to be sampled as the testing kit is mailed from FSIS to the chicken plant in a big box. That tips the company off that the inspector is about to take samples. FSIS inspectors have reported to us that companies will “shock the system” by increasing the levels of chemicals used in the slaughter process in order to pass the testing. The upper levels of management of FSIS also seem to suspect that some poultry companies are gaming the testing system as the agency has issued instructions to inspectors to request additional sampling of chicken plants that seem to be increasing the chemical interventions during the government sampling period and reduce the chemical treatments after the testing period is completed.

We are going to see more subterfuge if the Obama Administration presses forward with its proposal to reduce the number of government inspectors in poultry plants and let the companies police themselves by increasing line speeds and relying on chemical cocktails to scrub poultry of food borne pathogens. Food & Water Watch is encouraging the public to take action to stop this ill-conceived scheme from moving forward.

Visit EcoWatch’s FOOD page for more related news on this topic.

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Oregano oil is an extract that is not as strong as the essential oil, but appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Peakpx / CC by 1.0

By Alexandra Rowles

Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.

However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meets Ronaldo Caiado, governor of the state of Goiás on June 5, 2020. Palácio do Planalto / CC BY 2.0

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has presided over the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak after the U.S., said Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Read More Show Less
Although natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, it is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Skitterphoto / PIxabay

By Emily Grubert

Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved two Lysol products as the first to effectively kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces, based on laboratory testing. Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveils the Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Judith Lewis Mernit

For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.

Read More Show Less
About 30,000 claims contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are currently unsettled. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hundreds of sudden elephant deaths in Botswana aren't just a loss for the ecosystem and global conservation efforts. Mario Micklisch / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Charli Shield

When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.

Read More Show Less