The National Chicken Council on Thursday, in a detailed statement, reaffirmed the safety of antimicrobial use in poultry processing in response to claims made yesterday in an article appearing in the Washington Post. 

“When administered properly at the federally recommended use levels, these antimicrobials are safe for poultry products, for consumers and for those working in the plant,” NCC said.  “These levels are frequently tested by both USDA and plant personnel to ensure they are at safe levels for the product and for workers in the plant.”

NCC and others in the scientific community also contested the assertion that antimicrobial use would increase if USDA’s poultry inspection proposal goes through.

Among many other inaccuracies in Kimberly Kindy’s article, NCC takes exception to the Post’s characterization of our statement that “the volume of chemicals would increase further under the new rules because a larger volume of birds would be processed.”

The volume of chicken produced is dictated by demand and the market, not line speeds or inspection systems, NCC told the Post. Increasing line speeds does not equate to more chickens being produced.  More than likely it means less production time, not more chickens produced, and not more antimicrobial use.

Dr. S. F. Bilgili, a professor in Auburn University’s Department of Poultry Science, and a past president of the Poultry Science Association, added, “The slight increase in processing line speeds that may occur as a result of the proposed changes to the U.S. poultry inspection system is not likely to change the antimicrobial use much, as novel application sites (i.e., use in finishing chillers rather than pre- and final chill tanks) and delivery methods (i.e., mist sprays rather than as a carcass dip) have already reduced the antimicrobial use significantly.  Furthermore, novel technologies continue to be developed and commercialized to enhance the antimicrobial efficacy at lower application levels,” he said.

Tom Super, NCC vice president of communications added, “We take very seriously the health and safety of everyone working in our plants. It is ironic that these inspectors, their union and their allies are claiming how bad the work environment is in the plants, yet they’re fighting tooth and nail to stay in them, in an attempt to save some taxpayer-funded jobs that have proven unnecessary over the past 13 years.”

The full statement is available here.

For questions and answers about antimicrobial use in chicken processing, click here.

For myths and facts about USDA’s proposed poultry inspection system, click here.

To read about the industry’s progress in improving worker safety, click here.