Cleaning chicken with bleach is one of those tasks nobody likes to do but we’re all glad somebody does. But does bleach really kill every microbe? My sister said it doesn’t, so I did some research.
Did you know it’s possible to clean chicken with bleach? I didn’t either, but let me tell you, it works. Ask anyone at my house. They’ll tell you I’m a miracle worker and that cleaning chicken with bleach is just one example of this.
Chlorine: to wash or not to wash
GINNESVILLE, Georgia — Chlorine serves many diverse purposes, like sanitizing poultry. It is not just a chemical in swimming pool water. Several international governmental organizations, including the USDA and the European Food Safety Authority, have approved the use of chlorinated water to clean chicken.
People might find the idea of a chemical powerful enough to maintain clean pool water unsettling, but it’s crucial to realize that the concentrations of solutions are what differentiate chemical applications. The USDA advises using 50 ounces of chlorine per 7.800 gallons of water while cleaning poultry. To put that into perspective, according to data from the European Commission, a person would have to eat more chicken in a single day than 5% of their own body weight to experience any negative consequences.
Therefore, the issue regarding chlorinated chicken is not its safety but rather the worry that chicken producers may not be using basic animal care procedures. Because chlorine is so effective at eliminating viruses and bacteria, processors might not take the appropriate biosecurity precautions and vaccinate birds against diseases.
According to the National Chicken Council, this isn’t the case, at least not with chicken made in the United States. Through stringent controls, the government preserves high standards for poultry meat. It wouldn’t work to sanitize food with just one method, similar to baking a cake with just one component.
The environmental effects that the chemical’s runoff could have on water supplies and the soil are another argument against chlorinated chicken. However, some water treatment facilities already incorporate chlorine into their filtration procedures to offer additional advantages comparable to those that fluoridating water would.
However, U.S. poultry farmers are prepared and equipped to deliver chicken that has been cleaned using different methods to European nations that have outlawed chicken that has been chlorine washed. These techniques are not always as efficient as chlorine water combinations, though.
Meat can also be washed in cold, chemical-free water or with various antimicrobial washes to eliminate germs on poultry. Comparing these methods to chlorine solutions frequently results in disappointment.
According to a World Health Organization research, compared to chicken that had been chlorinated, which had a contamination rate of 58 percent, more than 70 percent of salmonella remained on poultry after being rinsed with cold water.
One of the most popular proteins consumed in the United States today is poultry. According to the National Chicken Council, improperly washed chicken is one of the main sources of foodborne illnesses, hence it is essential that the flesh be properly sanitized.
Chlorinated chicken explained: why do the Americans treat their poultry with chlorine?
US regulators claim that chlorine treatment is safe to use, while Europe has strong opposition to the notion.
Everyone is up in arms at the possibility that the UK may accept US chicken that has been chlorine-treated in exchange for a lucrative trade agreement.
Since the EU referendum last year, there have been growing worries that the UK may have to abide by lower standards for imported beef as part of any post-Brexit trade agreements.
Ministers have previously vowed to uphold the ban on poultry that has been chlorinated. However, when the government’s Agriculture Bill made it through the Commons, votes were cast against amendments that would have codified current food standards in law.
The government is considering implementing a dual-tariff system that would charge imported foods at various rates of tax depending on whether they met UK criteria for food safety and animal welfare.
So what exactly is “chlorinated chicken”? And why does it exist in the US but not in our country?
What is chlorinated chicken?
Chicken that has been chlorinated, also known as chlorine-treated chicken, has been cleaned with antimicrobial rinses to get rid of dangerous microorganisms. In the US, these rinses are frequently referred to as PRTs (Pathogen Reduction Treatments).
The carcasses of the birds are examined after they have been killed and their internal organs removed, followed by a “last cleaning treatment” in which chemicals are given to the processing line as a spray or wash, “or as an addition to the water used to lower the carcase temperature.”
Why is it used in the US?
to aid in the control of diseases like salmonella and campylobacter and to safeguard customers against infections.
Salmonella prevalence is decreased from 14% in controls to 2% when poultry meat is immersed in chlorine dioxide solution at the strength used in the United States, according to a paper from the Adam Smith Institute (which supports the legalization of PRTs). Salmonella is frequently present in 15-20% of EU chicken samples.
Why is chlorine treatment banned over here?
Concerning poultry imports treated with chlorine, which EU member states have refused to accept since 1997, the EU and the US have been at odds for a long time. The dispute, which has given rise to WTO proceedings, continues to be a major point of friction in trade ties between the EU and the US.
One of the main issues raised by the EU is the claim that the use of antimicrobial treatments like chlorine washes makes up for subpar hygiene practices elsewhere in the supply chain (such as on farms), and that consumers are better protected by a system that forbids processors from using chemicals to treat chicken. As a result, only cold air and water are permitted to be used by EU processors to cleanse poultry carcasses.
The US denies this, claiming that the prohibition is merely willful protectionism intended to shield EU chicken producers against more affordable imports and is not supported by scientific data.
“Let’s be clear: no chemical rinse will ever completely eradicate all bacteria from meat that has been heavily tainted by unsanitary conditions.” according to BEUC’s Monica Goyens, the EU’s consumer body
So is it safe?
US authorities are clear: yes, it is secure. Meat treated with such rinses is regarded as safe for consumption by consumers since the USDA has approved numerous antimicrobial rinses for use in chicken processing, including chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorite, trisodium phosphate, and peroxyacids.
In fact, their EU counterparts concur. When examining the chlorine treatment of poultry, the European agency in charge of food safety, EFSA, concluded that “chemical compounds in poultry are unlikely to constitute an immediate or acute health risk for consumers.”
Furthermore, according to the US National Chicken Council, just 10% of US processing facilities actually use chlorine washes.
Read more: Will Frankenfoods flood the market in post-Brexit US trade deal?
However, a lot of Europeans disagree that the issue goes beyond whether chlorine treatment is safe. They contend that preventing bacteria contamination from farm to fork improves public health overall and that allowing chlorine treatment deters industry from implementing good hygiene practices.
In a 2014 article, BEUC’s Monica Goyens stated: “In essence, what we are concerned about is not only the chemical itself, but rather the possibility that these treatments would be perceived as the “easy cure” to clean up unclean meat. Let’s be clear: No chemical rinse will ever completely eradicate all bacteria from meat that has been heavily infected by unsanitary conditions.
Other than trade negotiators, does anyone else think this is a good idea?
Yes. According to the Adam Smith Institute, the UK should change the EU regulations that now forbid the importation of poultry that has been chlorinated.
Chlorinated chicken – Why You Shouldn’t Give A Cluck is the title of a new briefing paper that makes the case that British customers could benefit from substantially less expensive poultry if the chlorine treatment prohibition were overturned. According to the statement, “US methods produce fresh chicken for 79% of the cost of comparable birds on British shop shelves.”
It further emphasizes that American customers consume 156 million chickens that have been treated with chlorine each week and are unaffected, as the risks are negligible. It states that in order for adults to be at danger of illness from poultry alone, they would need to consume 5% of their body weight in chlorinated chicken every day. For a long time, Brits would have to consume three complete chickens that had been chlorine-washed per day to run the danger of getting sick.
Chlorine-washed chicken Q&A: food safety expert explains why US poultry is banned in the EU
As a contributor to The Conversation UK, Cardiff Metropolitan University offers funding.
Eight universities, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa, collectively provide funding for The Conversation. The Nigerian Academy of Science, the African Population and Health Research Centre, and the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Western Cape are hosting it.
Why are people talking about chickens that have been washed with chlorine?
The UK is currently searching for methods to expand commerce with nations outside of the EU as Brexit approaches. One of the most important alternatives that legislators are considering is a trade agreement with the US, and one of the key elements of this might be a pact that would raise imports and exports of food and beverages. This has increased the likelihood that the UK will accept US food standards; a clear illustration of this is the EU’s current restriction on using chlorine to wash chicken carcasses.
Why are chickens washed with chlorine in the US?
It all comes down to cost and space use. Most farmers genuinely care about raising their birds, but because profit margins can be quite slim, animal welfare is sometimes neglected in order to reduce costs. Cost is a factor in the EU as well, but according to the law, it cannot be at the price of the birds’ fundamental welfare. For EU poultry rearing houses, a minimum size, amount of lighting, and ventilation are required by law.
The fewer birds that can be kept in a single location, which in turn affects production costs, the more room they have to move around in. The birds can be confined in a small space with little light and ventilation because there are no regulations prohibiting it in the US. This lowers production expenses but raises a flock’s risk of illness and pollution.
A quick, affordable way to eliminate any microorganisms on the surface of the chicken, especially pathogens like Salmonella and Campylobacter, is to wash the birds in a strong chlorine solution (20–50 parts per million of chlorine). In the process of slaughter and evisceration, this helps keep the flesh from becoming infected with microorganisms.
Why is the process banned in the EU?
Since 1997, US chicken has been prohibited in the EU due to this chlorine washing procedure. However, this isn’t because the procedure itself has been labeled risky. The application of the chemical cleaning procedure can be effective at eliminating foodborne germs, according to a report by the EU Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures, for instance. The underlying concern is that severely filthy birds might not be properly disinfected, and that using chlorine washing exclusively might result in lower overall hygiene standards.
The “farm to fork” idea, which is what EU officials feel the food business should be constantly advancing, has led them to restrict poultry rinsed with chlorine as a deterrent to unethical practices. However, there are no laws governing the care of chickens in the US, hence the practice is popular. Additionally, there have been instances of both inhumane and unsanitary activities being carried out in poultry houses as a result of a lack of animal welfare legislation, including undercover video evidence provided by the Humane Society of the United States.
What are the potential health risks of chlorine washing?
This chlorine washing has some advantages, but there are also drawbacks. Because their other hygiene requirements are so subpar, several abattoirs and processing facilities in the US heavily rely on chlorination. These facilities are prohibited in Europe. Additionally, the method does a great job of getting rid of surface filth and odors, allowing the meat to be sold as fresh for much longer than it should.
At the concentrations used in washing, chlorine is neither harmful nor carcinogenic. However, research has shown that if the chlorine concentration is high enough, the treatment might lead to the formation of carcinogens such semicarbazide and trihalomethanes in the poultry meat. Although the US Food Safety and Inspection Service does impose restrictions to stop this, there is always a chance that they may be broken.
Is there much evidence to support the EU ban?
The EU ban is more preventative than empirical. Officials were insistent that food manufacturers concentrate on overall hygiene rather than depending on a single chemical decontamination technique to eradicate microbes when the ban was first enforced. Additionally, it was thought that the chemical cleansing process would promote antibiotic resistance.
As a result, the EU passed legislation outlining particular guidelines for food hygiene. This forbids using anything other than water to clean meat, thereby banning the importation of poultry that has been given an antibacterial rinse into the US. The European Food Safety Authority has not, however, discovered any solid proof that antibiotic resistance is increased by antimicrobial agents used in food processing.