The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has taken issue with a survey released by an advocacy group that purported to find half the chicken products marketed by national brands and sold in supermarkets to be contaminated with feces. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) released the study as a reason USDA should not privatize chicken plant inspections. Dr. Hilary Thesmar, RD, FMI vice president, food safety programs, says the survey is flawed.

“The methods used to collect and interpret the data in the PCRM survey fail to meet standards of proper scientific research design,” Thesmar states. “In addition, there are many different strains of E. coli, these are common in the environment and many do not cause illness. The presence of generic E. coli is not a guaranteed indicator for fecal contamination, and to draw that conclusion is misleading.” To base an entire report around that faulty conclusion is irresponsible, she says.

Thesmar says USDA has a zero tolerance policy for fecal contamination on poultry carcasses during processing, and the industry further safeguards against such contamination by maintaining many points of inspection by USDA inspectors and plant employees.