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on July 15, 2010

NCC urges USDA to withdraw new performance standards for raw chicken

Says regulations are unsupported by science and contrary to law

New federal regulations on the presence of naturally occurring salmonella and campylobacter on raw poultry are unsupported by science and contrary to law and should be withdrawn, according to a National Chicken Council (NCC) press release. 

“The chicken industry recognizes the importance of preventing foodborne illness and enhancing public health protection,” NCC said in comments filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS). “The industry has made great strides in recent years in reducing the number of broiler carcasses testing positive for salmonella, achieving a two-fold reduction in the prevalence of salmonella on chicken carcasses on a national basis since the industry’s voluntary adoption of the NCC Salmonella Reduction program in 2004.”   

According to the NCC, there is no scientific justification for USDA’s claim that changing its “performance standard” for salmonella on raw chickens, and establishing a new one for campylobacter, will reduce foodborne illness in humans. In fact, NCC noted, the burden of salmonellosis in the country has actually increased slightly in recent years even as the chicken industry successfully reduced the prevalence of Salmonella on raw chickens. Salmonella is found in a wide variety of uncooked foods.

Moreover, NCC said the new government standards have been adopted in violation of federal law governing new regulations, and go beyond FSIS's legal authority. NCC explained that the decision of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Supreme Beef Processors vs. USDA made it clear that salmonella, by itself, is not an adulterant in meat and poultry and that USDA therefore lacks legal authority to regulate it. Salmonella and campylobacter on raw products are easily destroyed by the heat of normal cooking, NCC noted.

“These regulations are likely to increase costs significantly for processors and will result in little or no positive impact on human illness and public health. Given that FSIS’ legal standing and approach to promulgating standards is shaky at best, that the Agency clearly violates the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and that the new standards are beyond the Agency’s statutory authority, arbitrary and capricious, and not supported by science, NCC strongly objects to the Agency’s planned implementation of these standards. Accordingly, NCC requests that FSIS withdraw the Notice and reconsider its legal and scientific basis,” the NCC comment said.

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