New Safety Standards Decrease “Fowl” Illnesses

Did you miss your chicken burrito for lunch yesterday? Have you feared purchasing chicken wings for the big game?

Chipotle closed all of their stores nationwide on Monday for a companywide safety briefing. Last October, more than 50 people in 11 states showed symptoms of E. coli. A different strain affected five other people in December. More than 120 people contracted norovirus from a Boston Chipotle. Investigators were not able to determine the source of the outbreaks and neither could Chipotle, yet the burrito giant is still under criminal investigation for an August norovirus incident in California.

The company has reduced the risk of future outbreaks by testing ingredients on farms, central kitchens, and blanching raw vegetables to kill germs. Chipotle’s CEO announced a $10 million commitment to help small farmers keep up with new standards so they can continue using local growers.

The federal government is also improving standards of chicken safety by proposing new measures to reduce salmonella and campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey and raw chicken breasts, legs, and wings. Tough standards are already in place for whole chickens and turkeys, but not the smaller parts, which have higher rates of salmonella. Breasts and wings make up 80% of chicken sold to consumers.

Poultry producers would have to lower salmonella rates to no more than 15.4%, compared to the current 24%. Campylobacter will have to decrease from 22% to 7.7%. These standards are a result of a salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms, which sickened more than 630 people from March 2013 to July 2014. The company has since reduced contamination rates to 3%.

Since the outbreak, the chicken industry has been making improvements to reduce contamination. They have reduced rates by changing how animals are processed and better sanitation practices. Companies are looking for ways to strengthen sanitation programs, temperature controls, and processing. There is always room for food safety improvements.
Malcolm, Hadley. “Chipotle closed until 3 p.m. Monday for food-safety staff meeting.” Money. USA Today, 8 Feb 2016. Web. 9 Feb 2016.
Doering, Christopher. “Poultry standards toughened to prevent salmonella.” Agriculture. The Des Moines Register, 4 Feb 2016. Web. 9 Feb 2016.

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