EU consumer group digs in against sanitary chicken washes

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 23, 2014 - The European Consumer Organization (BEUC) is condemning sanitary washes used in U.S. chicken production, a move that may further complicate negotiations for a trade treaty with the European Union.

The Brussels-based group last week released a position paper against the solutions, which are used to control the spread of pathogens such as the E. coli bacteria and salmonella. The organization represents 40 consumer groups in 21 countries.

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“BEUC is concerned that PAA (peroxyacetic acid) washes will not deliver any ‘extra safety net,”' the group said in the report. “Rather, we see the risk they might be seen as a convenient substitute for good slaughter hygiene.” BEUC instead recommends what is known as the farm to fork approach which aims to fight bacteria at each step of poultry production. The guidelines include specialized wear for workers in poultry facilities, transportation and slaughter.

The EU currently bans chemical washes such as PAA and chlorine, which have been used by the U.S. chicken industry for decades. The issue could be a roadblock in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations, in which the U.S. is calling for the EU to use science-based standards to justify any trade barriers.

At a T-TIP congressional hearing in October, Bill Roenigk, senior vice president of the National Chicken Council, testified that the U.S. has been unfairly shut out of the EU market for more than 17 years because of trade barriers relating to chlorine washes.

“We have serious concerns - even serious doubts - that any new trade agreement with the European Union will result in real and meaningful access for U.S. poultry exports to the European market,” Roenigk said.

Tom Super, the council's vice president of communications, said the EU enacted rules in 1996 that prevented U.S. exports of chicken processed using chlorinated water. This method had been used by the U.S. poultry industry for more than 50 years and is approved by USDA.

Washes like PAA are a protection against bacteria in poultry slaughter. After slaughter, chickens are dipped in PAA to prevent pathogens that cause E. coli and salmonella from being passed onto consumers. 

BEUC said that EU consumers do not want their food exposed to chemicals. The organization's position on food safety is to focus on controlling disease at early stages of the food chain production with biosecurity measures like controlling water and feed quality.

Despite BEUC's position against chemical wash, the European Food Safety Authority released a scientific opinion in June that concluded that there are no toxicity concerns with PAA treatment or residue.

“The U.S. chicken industry is quite frankly, not sanguine about the prospects for poultry under the proposed T-TIP free trade agreement with Europe,” Super said. “The ban currently imposed by EU regulations on importation of U.S. chicken is not based on sound science and is inconsistent with WTO (World Trade Organization) rules.”

“We have been shut out of the European market now for 18 years, and there is no current indication that the T-TIP will remedy that situation,” Super said.

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