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Concerns RAised over FDA's Guidance for Organic Poultry

24 July 2013

US - The Organic Consumers Association has voiced concerns over new draft salmonella safety guidance issued by the Food and Drug Administration.

The guidance notes are designed to help organic egg producers and other farmers who allow outdoor access for their chickens comply with its salmonella food safety rule, which went into effect in 2010.

The draft guidance is in a Question and Answer format. The public comment period is 60 days, and the FDA is seeking input from organic industry stakeholders.

The Organic Consumers Association said that there is ample scientific evidence showing that confining chickens to battery cages, large flock sizes, infestation with flies and rodents, and forced molting (a practice banned in organics) are risk factors for salmonella contamination. The Association said that yet, rather than address these documented risk factors, which are common on non-organic, large-scale confinement operations ("factory farms"), the FDA is focusing on outdoor access and making it harder for organic farmers, who afford their chickens access to the outdoors, to comply with FDA regulations.

The association added that Wild birds were never addressed in the FDA's salmonella rule and studies have not consistently shown that farms where hens come in contact with wild birds are more likely to have salmonella contamination. The Association questions why the FDA's guidance document focuses on reducing contact with wild birds when wild birds present a low risk factor.

It also said that countries in the European Union do not limit outdoor access and require at least 43 ft2 per bird of outdoor space. These countries are having great success with reducing salmonella rates without interfering with outdoor access, according to the Association.

Published studies show that cages, flies and large flock sizes are the real risk factors for salmonella contamination, yet the FDA spent considerable resources to draft guidance specifically for organic producers with outdoor access. The Organic Consumers Association says that if the FDA were truly concerned with consumer health, it would phase out cages and large flock sizes.

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