by Marion Nestle
Mar 28 2014

Salmonella is NOT an inherent part of chicken, proves Denmark

Yesterday, Food Safety News republished the last of a four-part series in the Portland Oregonian about how Denmark was able to get rid of Salmonella in chickens, but we can’t. 

This one explains why.

[USDA] announced a plan last year to stem Salmonella. Its goal is to reduce illnesses by 25 percent by 2020. The plan, which is still being rolled out, includes a controversial overhaul of inspections, enhanced testing and a first-ever limit on allowed Salmonella in cut-up chicken.

Denmark opted for a more comprehensive approach, attacking Salmonella in flocks, poultry barns, animal feed and slaughterhouses.

Why can’t we do that too?

  • The U.S. chicken industry is too big.
  • Reforms would cost too much.
  • Chicken prices would rise.
  • Chicken would cost more than beef.
  • Nobody–industry, regulators or retailers—wants to bother.
  • The U.S. food safety system is too fractured; no federal agency has the authority to mandate such reforms.
  • USDA food safety authority only starts at the slaughterhouse, not the farm.

An impressive number of excuses, no?

Better make sure you handle chicken as if it were radioactive and cook it thoroughly.

This series is well worth a read if you want to understand what’s wrong with our food safety system.


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  • JW Ogden

    Another reason:

    No one much cares else you could start a brand of Salmonella free chicken.

    On a realted issue from wikipedia:

    Irradiation has not been widely adopted due to an asserted negative public perception, the concerns expressed by some consumer groups and the reluctance of many food producers.[39] Consumer perception of foods treated with irradiation is more negative than those processed by other means. “People think the product is radioactive,” said Harlan Clemmons, president of Sadex, a food irradiation company based in Sioux City, Iowa.[40]

    On the other hand, other studies indicate the number of consumers concerned about the safety of irradiated food has decreased in the last 10 years and continues to be less than the number of those concerned about pesticide residues, microbiological contamination, and other food related concerns. Such numbers are comparable to those of people with no concern about food additives and preservatives. Consumers, given a choice and access to irradiated products, appear ready to buy it in considerably large numbers.

  • Linn Steward

    Actually, I care and am sure there are others. Starting a brand would be a great idea. Especially if the bird tasted better.

  • Emmanuel Roux

    One thing left out of the article is that chickens, in Denmark,
    are not raised on the previous flock’s manure The litters are cleaned
    between each flock which, I believe is not the case in the US where they are cleaned only once a year

    This is a simple sanitation measure that could make a big difference

  • MikeMoskos

    If you can get your hands on pastured, soy-free (emphasis on soy-free) chicken and properly roast it (usually 425F for 23-24 minutes per side, seasoned only with sea salt), you’ll think you died and went to heaven. It is that good. I defy any chef any where to produce anything with so much flavor. It’s as if the taste is a reward for paying enough for the chicken to have an exceptional life.

    Americans’ diet/health went to hell when mom fled the kitchen in search of “fulfillment” (and her own spending money) and no one took her place. I see far too many people buying the cheapest ingredients to sort of make things from scratch and wondering why no one eats it. Then, they blow the majority of their food budget on processed food which has a pretty picture on the package, but sure doesn’t taste like it looks (not to mention the decided lack of nutrients).

    For the price of a fast food meal, you can have a pound of grass finished ground beef (or roasted chuck–super tender and flavorful), a huge bowl of pea sprouts, a big dish of heirloom tomatoes, just to mention a few of my favorites. Given those choices, most will be at the drive thru in a heartbeat, because they are loath to use their kitchen for anything besides an expensive renovation job.

    On the other hand, I always get a smile on my face when I see more people at the farmers’ markets, new members at the food club, etc. It takes years to fully change your food prep and purchasing habits. My goal is simply to eat as well as my peasant ancestors.

  • Recent reports say that chicken purchasing is up and beef is down in the US. I wonder how this increased demand will impact salmonella rates. I’m guessing in the wrong direction…

  • Daniel

    Why the hell would chicken ever cost more than beef, chicken are far less resource intensive, even free range, that is an absolutely corrupt and rediculus claim