There has been a lot of fuss recently in the UK regarding chlorinated chicken. The U.S. have copped a bit of flack for the way they process poultry post-slaughter; specifically for the method that is employed in order to reduce levels of pathogens on carcasses. Opposers of Brexit have used the term “chlorinated chicken” as a byword or rally-cry in order to imply that the UK will suffer from poorer food safety standards if they align trade with their friends in America instead of Europe. Just like a bacteria the trope has been spread around from the back-end to the front-end and has been left to multiply outside of acceptable controls.
Salmonella and campylobacter are a significant issue when it comes to poultry. A significant proportion of farmed poultry in Europe and the U.S is contaminated with the bugs. In the U.S washing poultry with a chlorine solution is said to lower the level of pathogens present on the meat. There is some sense to this. In Europe primary producers and processors treat fruit and vegetables with chlorine washes in order to reduce microbial loads. We even add chlorine to the water supply.
One of the arguments being made is that relying on end-on treatment is the wrong approach to managing food safety. Opposers say that, instead, the U.S should be concentrating on on-farm hygiene and animal welfare in order to reduce contamination rates before slaughter. In the UK, this has been one of the Food Standard Agency’s approaches for many years now. However, it has to be said that, the incidence of campylobacter and salmonella found in supermarket chicken in the UK remains just as significant.
There are differences in standards between Europe and the U.S; these are, in part, relate to intensity of farming and stocking densities. This may influence trade unfairly in terms of economical advantage rather than from a food safety perspective. The use of chlorine (or “chlorinated chicken”) in this context, we wouldn’t say, is the best subject to contribute to a political argument over food standards.
Wherever you live it is important to ensure that all poultry is cooked thoroughly throughout and that you take measures to prevent cross-contamination. Cook until juices run clear, so that the flesh becomes more fibrous and to remove (so far as possible) the ‘pinkness’ from the colour. Ensuring thorough cooking throughout is the most important consideration and so the best way to monitor core temperatures is to use a probe thermometer.
(Also be warned that there can be similar rates of contamination found in birds such as duck and goose and wild fowl).