Shocking Poultry Transport Conditions Throughout Country: Study

chicken_truck_attPhoto courtesy of flickr user b3nscottIt's no secret that the poultry industry is a leading culprit in food integrity no-nos, not to mention a top source of foodborne illness. But you'd think chicken producers – knowing that Campylobacter in poultry sickens 600,000 Americans a year and Salmonella in poultry costs $700 million in annual medical bills – would do the minimum effort of basic facility cleanliness. Not so, according to a new report.

From Meatingplace:

Survey results seem to indicate that about 80 percent of poultry growers don’t ever sanitize their crates, according to an Auburn University survey of 10,317 farms. What’s more, just 18.3 percent sanitize their trucks and trailers – two areas that contribute to the spread of Salmonella and Campylobacter.

So after a life of crowded conditions that breed disease and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, "often wounded and feces-caked" hens are then moved into crates to be shipped to slaughter. The fact that these crates and the trucks they're brought in aren't cleaned raises a big red flag.

The conditions of this transition between farming and processing are just as significant as those at CAFOs and slaughterhouses in keeping America's food supply safe.

As FIC Director Amanda Hitt explained in an op-ed published last year, food safety during transport is critical but unfortunately often overlooked in the public discourse. "One compromised shipment could easily sicken thousands of consumers," she stated. Truckers and other distribution workers serve as important potential whistleblowers, a voice that needs to be added to the conversation.

Hopefully action to change these holes in food safety will occur as a result of this survey, which was carried out by researchers at Auburn University. Coincidentally, food safety whistleblower Kenneth Kendrick was a featured presenter at Auburn University this week as part of GAP's American Whistleblower Tour. Kendrick shared with students the tough realities he faced after trying to expose unsanitary practices at the Peanut Corporation of America that led to the 2008-09 Salmonella outbreak. 

It's time agribusinesses stopped intimidating individuals who prioritize public health and started marking items off their list of food safety problems that inevitably affect communities around the country.

Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.


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