Chlorinated Chicken has received much press attention though often the focus is misplaced. The issue isn’t the wash itself, but rather than these birds have been produced in lesser conditions than permitted within the EU and as a consequence have greater potential for bacterial contamination. The EU ban on chlorinated chicken is an example of a sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) non-tariff barrier.
In the US ‘Pathogen Reduction Treatments’ (PRTs) are commonly used as a ‘final washing procedure’. This helps to manage pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter. EU producers are only allowed to use cold air and water to decontaminate poultry carcases.
Chicken can be produced more cheaply in the US and were the UK market opened up to chlorinated chicken, domestic producers would be impacted unless the UK were to lower its production standards significantly. Lowering standards would create a new problem given the challenge of carcase balancing, as a significant volume of the dark poultry meat is exported to the EU – and this would stop if the UK reduced its production standard below the minimum required by the EU.
In the following areas there are significant differences between EU and US standards which are significant:
- Stocking rate, both housed and in transport
- Provision of adequate bedding materials
- Cleaning poultry houses thoroughly between batches
- Salmonella control
- Environmental standards
- Lighting (welfare is higher if the birds are given a period of darkness each day, however this reduces feed consumption and growth rate).
Where the EU has legislation which governs almost every element of the production process, from the requirement for bedding to be dry on the surface, the minimum and maximum light permitted, requirements for humane slaughter etc, in the US most states do not have specific animal welfare legislation pertaining to farmed animals, instead voluntary welfare standards are applied. Many of these guidelines are similar in appearance to the rules set down by the EU, but in some cases they diverge significantly.
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