Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Contaminated Chicken

We're surrounded by contaminated chicken, and may need to surrender.

Nobody thinks they will fall victim to food poisoning, until it's too late.

Studies have shown that 30% to 80% of the chicken sold at retail are significantly contaminated by E. Coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, and/or other human pathogen.

How could this be allowed to happen?  Why have we allowed it to continue, so that contaminated chicken has now become the new "standard of quality" ?

Canada's Food and Drugs Act, Article 4 states:

No person shall sell an article of food that
(a) has in or on it any poisonous or harmful substance;
(b) is unfit for human consumption;
(c) consists in whole or in part any filthy, putrid, disgusting rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance;
(d) is adulterated; or
(e) was manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged or stored under unsanitary conditions.

I also understand from that:
"All health and safety standards under the Food and Drug Regulations are enforced by the  Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The Agency is also responsible for the administration of non-health and safety regulations concerning food packaging, labelling and advertising."

I therefore have some burning questions for government authorities about the risky and ridiculous situation they have allowed Canadians to be preyed upon by the Chicken Mafia.
They condemn and prohibit small flock farmers from processing their fowl at their farm gate, yet allow the current system to run amock.

If that isn't bad enough, CFIA has plans for allowing unlimited chicken slaughter plant line speeds.  Some of these chicken abattoirs now run at over 200 birds per minute.  That gives the CFIA Inspector just 0.3 seconds per bird to inspect (ie. 3 birds per second whizzing by the CFIA Inspector), haplessly and hopelessly trying to ensure the birds are healthy and not contaminated.

I have worked as a Quality Assurance Manager and a consultant in high volume automotive parts manufacturing plants and electronic circuit board manufacturing plants that used similar line speeds.  I tested our quality inspectors to see what they could consistently achieve at those speeds.  Generally, the inspector was mentally fatigued and no longer effective after 10 minutes to 2 hours on-the-job; depending on the individual inspector, lighting, number of possible defects, defect rates, and ambient conditions.  To ensure consistent quality, we had to build it in at source (ie. prevent the defect from occurring, so it doesn't need to be inspected for later), and relieve (or rotate) the inspectors faster than their capabilities deteriorated.

Has CFIA done similar, statistically valid tests for all of their Inspectors and determined their proven capabilities? If not, why not?

Hint to CFIA:   Conduct an R&R (Repeatability & Reproducibility) Study, long method (3 Inspectors, 3 trials, 10 samples= 90 measurements), or some other statistically valid AOQL (Average Outgoing Quality Level) inspection plan.  Prove to Canadians that CFIA can consistently achieve less than 10% R&R error at the line speeds and environmental conditions each CFIA Inspector is forced to work under.  If you are unwilling or unable to do so, feel free to submit your resignation so as to make room for somebody who can and will.

How many people have to be killed or made seriously ill (perhaps with effects lasting decades, if not forever) by contaminated chicken before Health Canada, CFIA, and provincial governments will rein in the Chicken Mafia?

To get answers, I have sent an email to the CFIA and a few MP's and MPP's.  We will have to wait until they respond to get the important answers Canadians need and deserve.

Raw Chicken Buying & Handling Instructions
Until we get answers and solutions, you will need to keep yourself and your family safe.  Here are a few tips.

Studies have shown that the outer surface of raw chicken wrapper film is likely to be contaminated too.  Therefore, at the grocery store meat counter, get a new plastic bag from the store's meat counter (or fresh vegetables Dept.), open it up, put it over your hand as a glove, then grab hold of the packaged chicken with your bagged hand.  Carefully turn the bag inside-out over the chicken, tie the bag, and place it in your grocery cart at the opposite end of the cart, well away from ready-to-eat foods and those eaten raw.

Download and print it off, then glue copies
to all sides of the shopping bag
you use to transport raw chicken.
If you use permanent grocery bags when you go shopping, get one that is a totally different colour (or mark a bag so it is obvious), and use it to carry for all radioactive and/or contaminated foods that you buy (eg. raw chicken). That way, you minimize cross-contamination potential between chicken and raw vegetables, or between this shopping trip and the next one.

When you get home and want to refrigerate your prized chicken, keep the chicken double wrapped, yet assume it will leak, so watch out below because the fresh veggies are usually at the bottom of the fridge in harm's way (who designed fridges with fresh veggies in a crisper at the bottom of the fridge ???).  Placing the chicken in a bowl may be a better idea.  Check the grocery bag for leaks, and if found, launder or throw it out.

Remember, DO NOT WASH your raw chicken carcass after you take it out of its plastic bag.  Studies have found that the micro-drops splashed from the chicken can have sufficient contamination to make someone sick, and the splashing can travel up to 5 ft. radius from the sink; contaminating counter tops, cutting boards, and any foodstuffs sitting there.  If you can't bear the idea of cooking your bird complete with all the ooze you paid for at the store, go ahead and rinse the chicken, but be sure to do a major decontamination of your kitchen.  See HAZMAT suit below.

When you want to cook the chicken, find a counter that you can readily disinfect after you are done. Carefully grab the chicken out of the refrigerated bowl by the outer bag and hold it over the roasting pan.  Undo the outer bag, and use scissors to cut open the inner bag, then place the used scissors into the chicken bowl.  Slowly and carefully, allow the chicken to slide out of the bag into the roasting pan.  Place the bags into the chicken bowl for drip-free transport to the garbage.  Throw out all plastic bags so they cannot be re-used nor touched by some unsuspecting person who could be subsequently contaminated (even somebody pushing down on the garbage to create more room, or placing something else into the garbage).
Season and cook fully, using a meat thermometer set for 82.5 °C (temperature at which most pathogens are killed or denatured)

Use soap and water to wash and rinse your hands and arms (most contamination potential), then all the counters and surfaces near where you were working. You may want to use a disinfectant as well. Check the fridge for drips, and wash the shelf when the chicken sat.  Rinse the bowl carefully.  Most household hot water systems operate at 60°C or cooler, so it won't kill Salmonella or other pathogens at that temperature, so you may want to use the electric heat cycle on a dishwasher to be sure.

For those who are somewhat accident prone or afraid, you may want to invest in a HAZMAT suit to protect you from your raw chicken.

Once the chicken thermometer reads 71°C, you can get out of your HAZMAT suit and get ready to eat some delicious Canadian chicken, courtesy of the Chicken Mafia.

If you can consistently do all the above, then congratulations.  You are now fully qualified to handle contaminated Canadian chicken, and/or handle spent nuclear fuel rods at your friendly neighbourhood nuclear power plant.

Be sure to put that on your resume. 

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