August 3, 2013

USDA asks whether chemicals mask salmonella

The dramatic reduction in salmonella rates in chicken plants raises questions about the test results.

By KIMBERLY KINDY The Washington Post

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Howarth, who was a main presenter at the briefing said, "Food is safer; just not as safe as the tests are showing."

He added that he believes the problem with the testing explains why the number of people getting sick from salmonella in poultry has not dropped in recent years even though the tests results have improved.

The chemical that came in for the greatest scrutiny at the USDA briefing meeting was Cetylpryridinium chloride (CPC) ,which is supplied to poultry plants by Safe Foods, an Arkansas company. Over the past three years, CPC has become the finishing rinse of choice in about 30 percent of poultry plants nationwide.

Officials of Safe Foods, which is a competitor to Howarth's company, California-based Enviro Tech, were not at the meeting.

Enviro Tech recently posted a YouTube video showing a laboratory experiment that the company says proves CPC is not neutralized if not adequately rinsed when the test sample is taken and therefore produces false test results, sometimes called a "false negative" or "false kill." It makes no mention of Safe Foods. However, within hours of the video's posting, a Safe Foods' attorney threatened the company with a cease and desist order, saying the video includes "inaccurate and misleading information."

In an interview, Safe Foods chief executive Rush Deacon, who wasn't at the USDA briefing, dismissed criticism of his product as "pot shots" from competitors. "We did our own tests to make sure we are giving a real kill and they showed we are," he said.

Deacon said his scientists believe the older acid-based solutions, like the ones Enviro Tech makes, are more likely to produce false test results, but only if "testing protocols are not followed." Such protocols would include properly neutralizing the chemicals.

Besides CPC, other chemicals getting a closer look from USDA include formulas containing high levels of peracetic acid (PAA) and acidified sodium chlorite. Their use has become commonplace over the past few years in nearly all of the nation's poultry slaughterhouses, scientists and experts in the poultry chemical industry said

Scott Russell, an international expert on poultry processing and a professor of poultry science at the University of Georgia, was a presenter at the USDA briefing and now plans to work with the department and other researchers to identify ways to ensure all chemicals are neutralized prior to testing.

"This could be happening," Russell said. "There is variance in the data that doesn't make sense. Further investigation is needed."


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