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Salmonella is a common cause of foodborne gastrointestinal tract inflammation in humans. Salmonella infections have caused a significant economic burden because of the related high medical care costs and labor losses (Gomez 1). Chicken commodities constitute a substantial part of the human diet, although, poultry meat and eggs have been the sources of foodborne salmonellosis in people. Science and technology have helped to develop processes of food production, transportation, and storage. Further, advancement in methods of microbial sampling, testing, and control had a significant impact on levels of Salmonella contamination in poultry. Similarly, the society’s level of knowledge about foodborne poisoning and subsequent public demand for the need for safe and quality foods have influenced the rights, obligations, powers, and restrictions on the production and selling of hen eggs and meat. This paper presents a critical evidence-based perspective on how science, technology, and society have impacted the legal status of salmonella in chicken and the associated food adulteration.
Sources of Contamination
Commercial farms rear chickens on a large scale, and the quality of their product depends on the hygiene standards maintained during the production, harvesting, and post-harvesting processes (Gomez 2). In the case of Salmonella contamination, the Enterobacteriaceae counts are used as a pointer to evaluate the pure quality of food, and the presence of these bacteria in chicken meat and eggs predisposes consumers to health risk (Hammack 9). From the meat or eggs, the bacteria find their way into human bodies when people consume raw, undercooked, or unpasteurized poultry products.
Science, Technology, and Society
Science has availed information about salmonella bacteria, their physiology, habitat, life cycle, and mechanisms of causing gastroenteritis. Besides, science has demystified the etiology, pathogenesis, incubation period, and signs and symptoms of salmonella poisoning. It has also been possible to distinguish between various Salmonella serotypes. This vital information has enabled the execution of measures to prevent and control further infections and to treat the disease. The application of operational strategies to reduce Salmonella in commercial broiler and layer flocks has been a critical public health and economic objective (Gomez 3). For instance, experts have examined the use of plant-derived antimicrobial molecules as dietary add-ons to discourage bacterial colonization of the gut and reproductive tract of the chicken, and also to decontaminate eggs (Gomez 3).
Improved production and processing technology had a profound impact on food adulteration by significantly reducing the prevalence and the number of salmonella bacteria on chicken that leave the processing unit and are sold to consumers (Gomez 4). Such technologies include pasteurization and irradiation. Similarly, through improved technology, it is now easy to sample and test various poultry products for Salmonella enteritidis. Detection methods such as culture, ELISA, DNA hybridization, PCR, and real-time PCR have simplified the process of identifying and quantifying bacterial contamination in food commodities. Consequently, science and technology – through reducing the magnitude of Salmonella infestation of poultry products – have lessened the would-be harsh legal implications that would have arisen from the consumption of foods with high microbial impurity.
In society, the primary cause of salmonella poisoning is the lack of knowledge and awareness. Poor hygiene leads to the contamination and cross-contamination of foods during preparation. However, with prevalent incidences of foodborne Salmonella outbreaks, society has become sensitized. Moreover, consumers are aware that they can sue poultry plants, stores or restaurants deemed as a source of contaminated food. Accordingly, dealers in poultry and chicken products have become extra vigilant in ensuring customer safety to eliminate monetary losses arising from fines imposed by the jury to compensate salmonella victims (Hammack 9).
In this regard, the legal status refers to rights, duties, and restrictions stated by legislation to curtail microbial hazards emanating from the soiling of poultry by Salmonella. A person who becomes sick, hospitalized, and incurs losses because of eating eggs or chicken meat contaminated with salmonella bacteria can take legal action against the source of food consumed, if there is sufficient evidence to implicate that source. Various food safety law firms have represented many victims of salmonella outbreaks in foodborne illness litigation and compensation claims. Prominent among these firms is the Marler Clark firm that has brought Salmonella lawsuits against companies such as Wal-Mart, Cargill, and Taco Bell (Gomez 4). Last week, contaminated chicken salads – packaged with Triple T Specialty Meats and sold by Fareway Stores – were reported to have caused human salmonellosis in Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Illinois. The victims of that incident stand a chance of filing a successful legal petition against these two companies (Gomez 4).
The food safety legislation passed by the US Senate addresses various concerns linked to any foodborne disease outbreak. The law stipulates that in the event of food contamination, the concerned agencies should identify the history of the contaminated food within two business days (e-CFR par. 2). The Code of Federal Regulation determines the levels of adulterants tolerable in food, stipulates the control limits, and action levels. The tolerance or regulatory limit may outlaw any measurable amount of the poisonous or deleterious substances in food (e-CFR par. 2). Upon a report that the meat or eggs have high levels of Salmonella, the FDA by section 118.2 of the CFR may order the destruction or diversion of such food for processing or treatment that realizes~ 5-log destruction of Salmonella. (e-CFR par. 2). Thus, the FDA has the authority to issue legal recalls and summons of the soiled food commodities (e-CFR par. 6).
The FDA demands that farmers institute measures to prevent the bacterium from soiling eggs during production (e-CFR par. 3). Also, the FDA provides guidelines for record-keeping and specific recommendations for biosecurity methods and monitoring for hygienic standards (e-CFR par. 3). Producers are required to submit a prevention plan and records to prove its effective implementation. The written salmonella prevention plan stipulates a producer’s proposal to apply preventive, testing, and diversion measures (e-CFR par. 7). The program helps producers to ensure that they have effectually and regularly implemented salmonella prevention measures. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken some actions to reduce contamination from Salmonella in poultry products. These actions range from tightening existing standards to limit the permissible amount of salmonella contamination in poultry and formulating an action plan specifying a priority list of activities (Gomez 3). Recently, USDA issued poultry processing guidelines and sanitary standards to curb salmonella contamination and promote efficiency (Gomez 4). The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service screens and controls the production of most domestic poultry commodities sold to consumers. It prescribes standards for chicken slaughter plants under its prerogative.
The author’s opinion about the legal status of Salmonella contamination in poultry is that commercial dealers in chicken products have an obligation and a duty to ensure that the food they sell to consumers is entirely harmless. There should be a balance between profit generation and quality and safety assurance. Where there is a violation of these standards resulting in health, monetary, or any losses to the consumers, the dealers should be held responsible.
Science and technology have impacted the chicken production industry positively by availing the information and cutting-edge innovations that have helped to reduce the contamination and cross-contamination of foodstuff with microbes. Conversely, society’s impact on the same has been varied and biased depending on the information available.
e-CFR. “Title 21: Food and Drugs, Part 118-Production, Storage, and Transportation of Shell Eggs.” ecfr. 2018, Web.
Gomez, Alfredo. “USDA Needs to Strengthen its Approach to Protecting Human Health from Pathogens in Poultry Products.” GAO Reports. 2014, pp. 1-63.
Hammack, Thomas. Bad Bug Book, Handbook of Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins: Salmonella Species. Edited by Keith A. Lambel et al., Food and Drug Administration, 2012. Web.