There is a reason why the conventional poultry industry in the U.S. has been fairly successful in recent years at lowering detected levels of salmonella in chicken. But it has nothing to do with factory birds being raised in cleaner and more humane living environments. To the contrary, a new investigative report by The Washington Post (WP) reveals that many chicken slaughterhouses are merely treating their filthy chickens with an ever-expanding volume and variety of toxic chemicals to mask the presence of more virulent salmonella strains from federal regulators.
This shock finding was realized after researchers looking into the salmonella testing process for poultry identified a mismatch between levels of bacteria detected on birds and overall infection rates among the general population. Simply put, salmonella contamination rates in chicken appear to be decreasing while salmonella poisoning rates in humans have remained the same or are even increasing. The cause for this anomaly, say researchers, is an outdated testing process combined with a massive increase in chemical use at chicken slaughterhouses.
“[S]ome companies are using new chemical compounds so powerful that they continue to work even in the solution FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) uses to collect its samples, thus giving off false negative readings as to the levels of pathogens remaining on the birds,” writes Tony Corbo for Food and Water Watch (FWW) about the report’s findings. “While FSIS has been reporting in recent years that the levels of salmonella have been decreasing through its regulatory sampling in chicken plants, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) … has been reporting that numbers of consumers getting sick from salmonella remain stubbornly high.”
The way it typically works is that FWW inspectors, which work under the banner of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), pull random poultry samples from the chicken processing line and immerse them in a solution that is supposed to not only neutralize the chemicals sprayed on the birds, but also detect the presence of salmonella and other harmful pathogens. But as explained by WP investigative reporter Kimberly Kindy, the types of extreme chemicals used on factory chickens these days are no longer being neutralized by the FWW testing process, not to mention the fact that heavier doses of these chemicals have to be used to make conventional chickens appear safe.
“The presentation to the USDA showed that the number of chemical treatments on chicken processing lines has grown from an average of two to four since the early 2000s,” writes Kindy. “It also showed that the chemicals are not as diluted as they were in the past.”
The USDA is said to currently be reviewing all this new data on its antiquated testing process to come up with possible solutions. As it stands, many of the harsh chemicals used on factory chicken are not only masking the presence of salmonella, but also making people sick, spurring things like respiratory ailments, skin rashes, or worse. In the meantime, health-conscious folks are urged to choose only certified organic chicken, or even yet, locally-raised, pastured chicken that does not have to be processed in chemical baths in order to be edible.
“Pastured birds … have more access to adequate space, fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, and thus maintain better physical health than confined birds,” explains the Rodale Institute about one of the many benefits of choosing pastured chicken. “[P]astured birds require no hormones or antibiotics unless faced with acute illness.”