A USDA survey indicates that cold water immersion and other antimicrobial interventions in poultry processing substantially improve the microbiological profile of raw chickens. The survey found that 5% of the raw chickens in the survey had salmonella after chilling and 11% had campylobacter, down from 41% and 71%, respectively, prior to evisceration. Additionally, the actual number of bacteria on each raw chicken was greatly reduced, by about 99% on average with respect to campylobacter and 66% on average for salmonella.
According to Steve Pretanik, director of science and technology for the National Chicken Council, the USDA survey shows that the industry is doing an excellent job of reducing the presence of potentially disease-causing bacteria on raw chicken. Pretanik emphasized that the investments made by the industry in improved technology and bacteria-fighting interventions have paid off in terms of a safer product for consumers. He noted that any remaining bacteria are destroyed by the heat of normal cooking.
USDA conducted the study from July 2007 to June 2008 at 182 broiler slaughter plants. The agency collected a total of 6,550 samples, divided equally between samples taken at the re-hang station and after the chiller. Raw chickens were processed under the available antimicrobial measures of each plant, which typically include the use of chlorinated water in processing and in the chiller.