"Chicken producers take very seriously any illness attributed to the consumption of a poultry product," said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, published October 21. "But passing a law or regulation to fight bacteria will not magically make it go away," he added.
The letter was in response to an October 16 editorial by Mark Bittman, "Should You Eat Chicken?"
Brown explained that before an egg is even hatched, chicken producers rely upon the best science, microbiology and technology to reduce food-borne pathogens to meet and exceed Agriculture Department standards. These initiatives and tens of millions of dollars in food-safety research can be credited with the significant decrease in Salmonella in chicken over the last several years.
"While zero tolerance is always the goal, such a level on any raw agricultural product is simply not feasible," he continued. "Fresh fruit, produce, meat or poultry - organic or not, bought from the grocery store or the farmers' market - could contain naturally occurring bacteria that might make someone sick if improperly handled or cooked.
"That's why we all play an important role in ensuring food safety for our families. All chicken is safe when properly cooked and handled, and chicken producers are tirelessly working to make them even safer.
"Because our families eat the same chicken as you and yours," Brown concluded.