Chicken Industry Committed to Food Safety, Industry Expert Tells Congress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, April 23, 2009

The chicken industry is strongly committed to food safety and has continued to improve its performance, especially in reducing the presence of potentially harmful microorganisms on raw product, an industry expert told Congress Thursday.

The number of processing plants in the very best category of performance continues to increase, Dr. Elizabeth Krushinskie, speaking for the National Chicken Council, told a subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture. She said the steady improvement is demonstrated by data published by the Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under its food safety program known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).

The key to success, she said, has been the industry’s commitment to food safety.

“The poultry industry has done a very good job at producing safe, wholesome, high quality foods,” Dr. Krushinskie said. “The industry is continually developing new interventions and related technologies, and refining its food safety systems, to enhance food safety. FSIS mandates HACCP plans and verifies compliance with the plans, but it is the plants that conduct hazard analyses and adopt and implement controls to address potential food safety hazards,” she noted.

“In reviews of the effectiveness of HACCP and the performance standards, FSIS has reported that nearly all broiler plants are complying with the Salmonella performance standards and that Salmonella prevalence in most product categories is lower since HACCP implementation than in baseline studies conducted before implementation,” said Dr. Krushinskie, who is also director of quality assurance and food safety for Mountaire Farms in Millsboro, Delaware.

In 2006, she noted, FSIS began posting industry performance categories to highlight how well the industry was doing in meeting the Salmonella standards, listing individual plants according to their success in meeting strict standards.

“These data reveal remarkable improvements,” Dr. Krushinskie said. “Between the first quarter of 2006 and the fourth quarter of 2008, the percent of broiler establishments operating at the category 1 performance level – achieving Salmonella prevalence levels averaging less than 10 percent – increased from 35.5 percent to 82 percent.”

Dr. Krushinkie also urged the committee to steer clear of any proposals to fund the work of food safety agencies, such as FSIS and the Food & Drug Administration, through fees charged to companies regulated by the agencies.

“Although adequate funding is crucial to the effectiveness of any regulatory agency, user fees are not the answer,” she said. “Congress should continue to fund regulatory agencies through appropriations,” rather than by fees tied to the agencies’ activities.

“These activities are central to the government’s role in enforcing the law; they are government activities, not voluntary services for which companies receive commercial benefits,” she said.

The National Chicken Council, based in Washington, D.C., represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

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