Many chemical bactericidal washes and rinses have been tried in the poultry processing industry with varying results; Campylobacter and Salmonella still find their way to finished product. To make matters more challenging for these processors, the European market will not accept poultry meat that has been subjected to chlorine rinses. In fact, chlorine has been banned in the European poultry industry since the 1990s due to the widespread concern that it is carcinogenic. Whether the chlorine issue is scientific fact or merely political in nature, it is still a concern for producers that can’t export chlorine-treated poultry products to Europe.

But now, poultry processors have a new method to overcome this problem—CMS Technology’s PoultrypHresh treatment, which has been granted Letters of No Objection by the FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service). The treatment is effective in reducing bacterial counts while decreasing the amount of chlorine used in the process and/or eliminating the need for chlorine, depending on the intervention point. PoultrypHresh uses a combination of chemicals including copper, a micronutrient that has antimicrobial properties. FE interviewed John Meccia, CMS Technology’s CEO to get more information on how this process works.

FE: First, tell us a little about your background and CMS Technology’s history.

John Meccia: My background is in the specialty chemical industry, and I have been fortunate to be involved in all aspects of the business, from R&D to business management, over the last 30 years. CMS Technology was created several years ago by four founders who believed that through the use of edible ingredients, antimicrobial treatments could be developed to reduce the incidence of harmful bacteria in food and potentially increase the shelf life of food products. Within the last year, CMS Technology has moved into the commercialization phase in the food industry.

FE: Chlorine washes/rinses are typically used at multiple points within a poultry process. What are the issues with chlorine usage?

Meccia: Chlorine can be a very effective treatment approach. However, there can be issues with its use, depending on the conditions. In higher bacteria or temperature conditions, loading levels must be raised for it to be effective. This can lead to worker eye, skin and airway irritation and undesirable residual by-products.

FE: How does your process differ from straight chlorine usage?

Meccia: CMS PoultrypHresh can be used at various intervention points for both whole carcasses and cut parts to help reduce pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter. Since it is not an oxidizer, the product can be accurately controlled through a closed-loop feedback process to measure the application amount through pH. Although it can be highly synergistic when used in combination with chlorine, PoultrypHresh was designed not to require it.

FE: What aspects of your process are protected by patents?

Meccia: In addition to multiple process patents, CMS is protected by compositional patents that cover the technology in combination with various materials. Our GRAS-based aqueous solution utilizes multiple components, including acids, buffering agents and copper ions. The approach is meaningfully different than others that have been used. Given new, more stringent proposed standards, the industry can benefit from our novel approach.

FE: What chemical compounds are used in your process?

Meccia: We have focused on using chemical compounds that have already been utilized in food applications for many years and, in fact, reside in many foods we commonly eat such as dough, cheese, nuts and seafood. Our technology does not include chlorine and works due to the synergy of very low levels of copper ion with specific acidifiers and agents to deliver effective microbial control.

FE: What levels of chlorine and copper remain in the product?

Meccia: PoultrypHresh is effective without the use of chlorine. The ingredients in PoultrypHresh are water soluble and used at very low levels as an antimicrobial treatment. This ensures there are no residue issues.

FE: What kind of process control is required to maintain the process’s efficacy?

Meccia: We have focused on keeping process control fairly straightforward through the use of pH as the key measurement. As mentioned earlier, we use an automated, closed-loop product injection system that can accurately pinpoint the required pH for our product to be effective. Our system limits the use of chemicals, ensures effectiveness and gives dependable results. Furthermore, processors have found value in the 24/7 data that helps identify best practices they can spread across other plants.

FE: USDA has said officially that it has “no objections” to your process. What does that mean?

Meccia: The USDA has a specific process in place whereby its FSIS must review information before it will provide Letters of No Objection [LONOs] allowing any intervention solutions to be used by a poultry processor. Our multiple LONOs allow our solutions to be used as antimicrobial processing aids at multiple intervention points in the poultry industry.

FE: How is chlorine eliminated or reduced so that treated poultry might be accepted by the Europeans?

Meccia: By controlling the pH to optimum levels with the ingredients contained in PoultrypHresh, processors can effectively reduce pathogens without the use of chorine.

FE: Are you investigating the possibility of using your product in cattle carcass applications where E. coli has been a major problem?

Meccia: The potential certainly exists. In fact, some recent testing of a variation of our formula in the produce arena has demonstrated extremely effective log reductions of E. coli in fruits that have previously been involved in dangerous and, unfortunately, sometimes fatal outbreaks.

FE: Where can you envision this product heading in the future?

Meccia: We have already seen that a variation of the same base technology can be effective at reducing pathogens on fruits and vegetables. By providing pathogen control to food processors through a controlled treatment system, we can make an impact by both mitigating food safety risks and reducing water usage in processing applications, especially in drought-stricken areas. We think reducing initial bacterial presence on food can help reduce waste and foodborne illness, and help feed more people.

FE: Is there anything else our readers should know about your company?

Meccia: Poultry processors need true partners that can provide solutions to aid them in meeting the new standards proposed by the FSIS. In fact, the FSIS has already noted it expects over 60 percent of establishments to initially struggle when it comes to meeting these standards. Additionally, we’re working with the USDA’s Russell Research Center to verify solutions to assist the industry.

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