Health and Fitness

USDA To Permit Poultry Industry to Self Regulate on Pathogen Levels In Chicken Parts

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–January 21, 2014.  Food & Water Watch has obtained an internal e-mail that reveals a plan by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to allow the poultry industry to set its own performance standards for pathogen reduction in chicken parts. This action comes on the heels of recent studies conducted by Consumer Reports that reveal that chicken parts sold in grocery stores contain high levels of foodborne pathogens.

In the e-mail dated January 17, 2014 to FSIS district managers, Assistant FSIS Administrator for Field Operations Dr. Daniel Engeljohn acknowledges and supports an effort by the National Chicken Council “to collect samples from chicken parts from most all poultry establishments in order to collectively work on voluntary pathogen reduction performance goals that the industry will self-impose using their own industry-wide aggregate data.” The e-mail goes to on to say that FSIS staff assigned to poultry facilities are not to interfere with the data collection conducted by the National Council because “{a}ny effort by local inspectors/supervisors to begin undermining this effort will have a negative national impact on public health.”

This effort raises a number of issues:

  1. Who will review the data collected by the National Chicken Council to determine whether it is statistically valid?
  2. How will the industry determine the performance goals set?
  3. Who will review those performance goals to determine their validity?
  4. How will the industry enforce the performance goals?
  5. How will this effort impact the plans underway at FSIS to set its own pathogen performance standards on chicken parts?
  6. What role will FSIS inspectors play in enforcing the voluntary performance goals set by the industry?

“Instead of strengthening its regulatory capacity, we view this as further evidence that FSIS wants to abdicate its responsibility to protect public health by privatizing the inspection process,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “This is an extension of the poultry slaughter inspection rule that the agency proposed in January 2012 that would allow the industry to self-regulate and minimize the role of its inspection staff to protect consumers. We call on both the Secretary of Agriculture and the relevant Congressional Committees to take a good hard look at what is going within this agency before the public is endangered by the reckless deregulatory policies being developed.”

Related Material:

Text of the e-mail can be found here:

Press statement on the “voluntary” performance goals that FSIS is allowing the Chicken Council to set can be found here:

Consumer Reports 2010 Report on foodborne pathogens in chicken:

Consumer Reports 2013 Report on foodborne pathogens in chicken: