Health Hazards in Chicken Production Exposed

The Trouble with Chicken, a Frontline documentary that premiered on PBS in May, exposes the dangers of microbial pathogens in poultry, and the lack of laws protecting the public. Following the show’s airing, two bills were introduced to Congress: the Pathogen Testing and Reduction Act (PTRA) and the Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act (MPRNA).

Before August 2014, poultry producers were not required to test their products for dangerous pathogens. Even now, producers create their own protocols, deciding themselves how many samples to test and what level of pathogens is acceptable. Currently, recalls are largely voluntary. The Trouble with Chicken discusses an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella that lasted over a year, sickening 46 people and killing one. After the first few cases, the USDA was fully aware of the disease and its source, but powerless to stop it.

If these bills pass, they will heighten standards for poultry, meat and egg production. The PTRA would require the USDA to establish sampling protocols and force producers to condemn products as “adulterated” if they contain antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The MPRNA would authorize the USDA to institute mandatory recalls of meat and poultry when public health is threatened.