The Bad Egg List: Exposé on Contaminted Chicken

WASHINGTON, D.C., US - A new report names and shames those chicken producers who have consistantly failed to meet federal standards on Salmonella control. The report, published by Food and Water Watch is an update and follow up of their 2006 report
calendar icon 27 March 2008
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The names of these failing plants have never been publicly released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for meat and poultry inspection. The consumer group’s analysis of the USDA’s Salmonella testing program provides direct evidence of the danger posed by a policy change that reduces the frequency of testing at some plants.

The new report lists 27 broiler chicken plants in 16 states that failed at least one Salmonella testing period in 2006 or 2007. The testing results, which were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, are from the USDA’s routine sampling program for Salmonella. To date, USDA has never publicly released information on which plants failed to meet Salmonella standards, despite an announcement that it would start doing so in 2007. Recent statements by agency officials indicate that the agency may soon publish the names, although the meat and poultry industry continues to lobby against this change.

"It’s time for USDA to tighten up their Salmonella testing program and let consumers know which companies are not making the grade."
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

Earlier this year, the USDA weakened its testing program with a new policy that delays testing at plants that met Salmonella standards in the past. An analysis of past testing data from the 27 plants with recent failures shows that this new policy could have delayed testing during periods of poor performance at six of these plants.

“USDA has delayed giving consumers this important information about their food for long enough,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It’s time for USDA to tighten up their Salmonella testing program and let consumers know which companies are not making the grade.”

In light of these findings, Food & Water Watch recommends that the USDA seek legislation to make microbial testing performance standards enforceable, publish on its website the results of Salmonella testing for every plant, and abandon a proposal to reduce the frequency of testing at plants with previous good performance.

In 1996, the federal government instituted major changes in the meat inspection system by creating the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. Under HACCP, USDA inspectors shifted to an auditing role and have less authority to require corrective action when they see a problem. As part of HACCP, the agency launched its Salmonella testing program which it touts as an indicator of the effectiveness of meat companies’ food safety procedures.

During a testing period, the USDA is supposed to take samples during 51 consecutive days of broiler chicken production. If a plant has more than 12 samples test positive for Salmonella during that period, they fail to meet the standard.

Further Reading

More information - You can view the full report by clicking here.
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