National Chicken Council Says US Chicken Supply is Safe, Nutritious

July 4, 2014

Offers reminder of food safety practices

WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 4, 2014 – The National Chicken Council is offering reassurance about the safety of U.S. chicken following news of a voluntary recall of chicken products issued by Foster Farms in Livingston, California. The recall involves fresh chicken products produced in March with varying “use or freeze by” dates ranging from March 16, 2014 to March 31, 2014 and frozen chicken products that have a “best by” date of March 7, 2015 to March 11, 2015, due to the potential presence of Salmonella Heidelberg.  No product currently on store shelves is part of this recall. More information on this recall is available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website here.

FSIS has noted that since October 2013 Foster Farms has implemented steps to reduce Salmonella throughout its plants and that the agency’s intensified sampling indicates very low levels of the pathogen company-wide. Even with very low levels of Salmonella, there is still the possibility of illness if a raw product is improperly handled or cooked.

Raw poultry products may contain naturally-occurring Salmonella. U.S. chicken producers and processors strive to control and reduce incidence of food borne pathogens not only to meet established FSIS performance standards but to provide the safest product possible.

National Chicken Council President Mike Brown released the following statement:

“Food safety is the top priority for companies that produce and process chicken products in the United States, and the industry prides itself on an excellent track record of delivering safe, affordable and wholesome food both domestically and abroad.

“Americans eat about 160 million servings of nutritious chicken every day, and virtually all of them are eaten safely. But we understand consumers have concerns about Salmonella, and regret any instances when someone becomes ill from eating chicken products – which is why our members are investing heavily in food safety research and are using the best science, research and technology available to break the chain of Salmonella at every stage of production.

“Coupled with continuous USDA inspection and proper handling and cooking to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, chicken is safe to eat 100 percent of the time.

“We’re working every day to improve. For example, NCC expects a first-ever performance standard from FSIS for chicken parts (e.g. breasts, legs, etc. as opposed to whole chicken) later this year. The industry is exploring all options to reduce contamination throughout the process in order to provide the safest product possible to our consumers. This something the industry is proactively working to address. When a performance standard for parts is put in place by FSIS later this year, the industry intends to meet or exceed the standard, as we currently do for whole chicken.

“Even though we’ve collectively made tremendous progress in reducing Salmonella on raw chicken to all-time low levels, the fact is any raw agricultural product, whether its fresh fruit, vegetables, meat or poultry, is susceptible to naturally occurring bacteria that could make someone sick if improperly handled or cooked.

“We all play an important role in ensuring food safety for our families, from the farm to the table, and there are steps people can take in the home to significantly reduce any risk. New research from the University of California – Davis indicates that consumers do recognize they have a role in ensuring the safety of the food they eat.”

Yet the study’s results show that most participants, 65 percent, did not wash their hands before starting meal preparation and 38 percent did not wash their hands after touching raw chicken. Forty percent of participants undercooked their chicken, and only 29 percent knew the correct USDA recommended temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

For more information about what companies are doing to combat foodborne pathogens, and for quick tips about properly handling and cooking chicken at home, click here.

“NCC has serious concerns about FSIS’s grounds for this recall. Raw chicken containing Salmonella of the same type associated with a foodborne illness outbreak is not adulterated under the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act. The agency acknowledges that Salmonella and other bacteria are not adulterants in chicken, but nonetheless now declares that these organisms adulterate chicken.

“Foodborne illness can occur from a variety of factors, including improper product handling, cross-contamination with other products at retail or during consumer preparation, or a failure to cook the product to the appropriate temperature. An establishment cannot control these factors, and until now, the food safety system has focused on managing those risks an establishment can control.

“The bottom line for consumers is that all pathogens found on raw chicken, regardless of strain or resistance profile, are controlled during processing under existing standards and will be fully destroyed by handling the product properly and cooking it to an internal temperature of 165°F.”

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