Agriculture & Health Departments Sign Agreement with Poultry Industry

Poultry producers go the "eggstra mile"
State-monitored standards to help reduce food-borne illnesses
Diana Savage Intelligencer Journal Staff

Pennsylvania’s poultry producers have spent years researching ways to create keep bacteria out of what they say is the perfect food. They sanitize chicken houses, don protective coverings and find ways to keep flies and rodents from sneaking into the buildings and contaminating eggs.

Now, confident they’ve come up with superior quality and safety standards, they’re ready to advertise the result of their hard work to the public.

The State Secretaries of Agriculture and Health, along with the chairman of the state Poultry Federation, signed an agreement Friday morning in Lititz touting the control procedures and testing protocols to maintain these standards of reducing foodborne illnesses.

Crates of eggs produced under this new quality assurance program can now bear a seal: "Tested quality. Produced under the highest standards for food safety. Monitored by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture."

"This is a momentous occasion for agriculture," said John Schwartz, county cooperative extension director. "I believe we’ve got a model that’s going to be used across the nation."

The value of Pennsylvania’s egg production is $265 million, ranking it third in the nation. The state provides fresh eggs for much of the East Ccoast as well as pasteurized eggs to an international market.

"As we rank third, it’s certainly exciting that we’re the ones providing leadership and setting the pace for the rest of the country," said state Agriculture Secretary Charles C. Brosius. "This is a proud day for producers and an important day for consumers."

More than 85 percent of the state’s poultry producers are already enrolled in the voluntary program, which works to reduce the risk of illness caused by Salmonella enteritidis (Se).

The program developed from a pilot project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine management practices likely to reduce or prevent contamination of eggs by Se. The project resulted in a significant reduction of Se in flocks, and is now a partnership between the state’s poultry producers and the state Departments of Agriculture and Health.

What makes the program unique is its partnership between private industry and governmental agencies.

"This is a wonderful example of two departments and private industry working together in an effort that reaches mutually defined goals," said state Acting Secretary of Health Daniel Hoffman.

Poultry producers not yet involved in the voluntary program can apply by contacting the state poultry federation. To stay enrolled and certified, producers must comply with certain management practices and have their flocks tested.

The state Department of Agriculture will monitor the poultry industry to ensure the testing complies with the agreement.

Officials hope the local success of their program will spread and that other states will adopt their standards and that other industries will join with the Poultry producers who follow sanitary procedures sanctioned by the state Agriculture and Health departments will be allowed to use the above logo on their products.

"I really see the food processing industry and restaurants tying into it," said Schwartz.

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