USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Thursday denied a petition filed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a pseudo-medical, vegan advocacy group, that called for the agency to declare and regulate feces on poultry as an adulterant, and label the products accordingly.

“We have decided to deny your petition because we disagree with the petition’s underlying assumption that meat and poultry products bearing the mark of inspection are likely to be contaminated with feces,” wrote Roberta Wagner, Assistant Administrator, Office of Policy and Program Development, in denying the petition. “We also have determined that the labeling changes you are requesting are inconsistent with the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) and would result in labeling of meat and poultry products that is misleading to consumers.”

PCRM’s original 2013 petition specifically requested the agency to:

  1. Declare and regulate feces as an adulterant;
  2. Amend FSIS regulations that prescribe mandatory safe handling statements (9 CFR
    317.2(1)(2), 381 . 125(b)(2)(i), and 381 . 125(b)(2)(ii)) to require that all meat and
    poultry product labels uniformly disclose the presence of feces; and
  3. Amend the FSIS regulations at 9 CFR 381.96 to remove the word “wholesome” from the
    official inspection legend for poultry and include an explicit warning that the
    product may contain feces.

Tom Super, NCC senior vice president of communications, noted in response to the petition’s denial, “This was never anything more than a publicity stunt by a vegan advocacy group in hopes of advancing their agenda to scare consumers away from meat and poultry products. It lacked any scientific justification or merit.  FSIS has a zero tolerance policy for fecal material entering the chiller, and the industry has an excellent track record. Every piece of chicken is subject to rigorous inspection by  federal inspectors.”

FSIS’s Wagner continued, “The Agency’s existing regulations and policies comprehensively address the disposition of adulterated meat and poultry products from various sources, including carcasses with fecal contamination. Existing FSIS regulations and policies ensure that adulterated meat and poultry products are identified and removed from the consumer supply chain during slaughter and processing and address various sources of adulteration, including product contamination by fecal material.”

In regard to the “studies” referenced in PCRM’s petition, FSIS said, “Although feces may contain intestinal bacteria, the presence of generic E. coli or other bacteria on a product does not mean that the product is also contaminated with fecal material.”

A copy of the FSIS letter denying the petition can be viewed by clicking here.