The Use of Active Chlorine as a Decontaminant

Doyle remarked that all new technologies come at a price and that the industry faces a tremendous challenge in terms of developing technologies that can be used to ensure safe food that still looks, smells, and tastes good. The challenge is especially difficult with those foods that are of greatest risk: fresh, uncooked foods. This remark prompted a question about the use of active chlorine to minimize Salmonella and Camplyo-bacter contamination in poultry products. The questioner noted that U.S. poultry plants use active chlorine for food decontamination purposes, but the European Commission does not allow the use of this practice in European plants. He asked the panelists their opinions on the use of a chemical that has toxic properties but that also effectively kills pathogens. The questioner also noted that there have been some claims that active chlorine is not efficacious at killing Salmonella. Doyle remarked that active chlorine is very effective at killing both Campylobacter and Salmonella “as long as the water is clear and clean.” He reiterated that an organic load (e.g., blood, residue) in the chill water tanks or other liquids used to process poultry neutralizes active chlorine and makes it ineffective. Other factors, such as the hardness of the water used in the plant, also play a role. The U.S. industry uses active chlorine because it is relatively inexpensive compared with other disinfectants. There are other products that work better than active chlorine and that work well even in the presence of organic load, but they are more expensive. Companies often use these more expensive products when problems arise but then, when the problem is cleared, they revert to using active chlorine for routine decontamination. He noted that one of the alternatives is peracetic acid, which is not only more expensive than active chlorine but is also corrosive to equipment.

Campylobacter Infection and Effects on Individuals of Different Ages

The final query, directed to Gendel, was about the reason for the consistent incidence rate for Campylobacter infections. The audience member questioned whether older consumers’ lack of increased susceptibility to infection, especially compared to the very young, is due to immunity that has built up throughout life. Gendel replied that there is no protective immunity against such pathogens, and said that perhaps children show a higher incidence of infection than older adults because they are more likely to get checked if something is wrong.

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