Tyson Foods Recalls 33,840 Pounds of Chicken

Tyson Foods Truck

Tyson Foods, Inc., of Sedalia, Missouri recalled 33,840 pounds of chicken due to a possible contamination with Salmonella Heidelberg. The chicken was produced on October 11, 2013 by mechanical separation.

Seven people fell ill with Salmonella Heidelberg in a Tennessee correctional facility. The start of those illnesses was between November 29, 2013 and December 5, 2013. Two people needed hospitalization, but so far there have been no deaths. The outbreak is still under investigation.

The mechanically separated chicken under recall was used only for institutional use. In other words, it was probably served only to prisoners and schoolchildren. It was not for sale in grocery stores and it was not used as an ingredient in products that were sold in grocery stores.

What is Mechanically Separated Chicken?

According to the USDA, mechanically separated chicken

is a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones with attached edible tissue through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue. Mechanically separated poultry has been used in poultry products since 1969. In 1995, a final rule on mechanically separated poultry said it would be used without restrictions. However, it must be labeled as “mechanically separated chicken or mechanically separated turkey” (depending on the kind of poultry used) in the ingredients statement. The final rule became effective November 4, 1996.

The β€œedible tissue” can include such parts of the bird as bones, bone marrow, skin, nerves, and blood vessels, as well as what you probably think of as meat. This is not the same as pink slime, although it sounds just as appetizing. The process enables corporations to use more of the carcass, thereby making more money off each animal.Β  If you’re really curious, here’s a video describing the process of mechanically separated chicken.

On a positive note, mechanically separated meats of all kinds must be labeled as mechanically separated in the ingredients.

Tyson Foods truck photo/CC

  1. Tanya Sitton

    This story perfectly highlights the problems we’re creating via industrial animal ag… create antibiotic resistant bacterial strains, by crowding animals in filthy conditions and feeding them antibiotics; exempt slaughterhouses and packing plants from any meaningful regulation; allow producers to speed production lines infinitely, regardless of human toll or degree of poop in the meat… and ta-da! Stories like this are inevitable.

    There are so many reasons to eat other things! Vegan or vegetarian or flexitarian or conscious-eater omni: holycrap, please don’t support factory-style farming of animals! It’s a horrible idea, for everyone involved!*

    *(except Heidelberg salmonella)

    Nice article, Heather!

  2. Lee Kennedy

    I thought salmonella was ‘native’ to chicken, that’s why you always have to cook the chicken and never eat it raw. So what’s the fuss?

      1. Lee Kennedy

        Surely thatis the reason chicken is handled with care and cooked thoroughly. Always has been. If it is the source of food poisoning, the fault lies with the user, not the supplier.

            1. Tanya Sitton

              Ad hominem fallacy would imply an attack on you, on YOUR traits instead of on the points that you’re advocating. I’m not trying to argue that YOU are silly, I’m saying the position you’re advocating is silly — silly as in ‘an absurd and unreasonable premise.’ I think it’s absurd to try to argue that the behavior of Tyson et al (ie abuse of prophylactic antibiotics for the sole purpose of maximum corporate profit at any societal cost, up to and including a post-antibiotic age of medicine) doesn’t play any role in the emergence of bacterial strains such as Heidelberg; OR that the lack of regulatory oversight that’s the current US status quo plays no role in incidence of food contamination. The industry under discussion is absolutely determined to outsource all possible costs onto society, and the argument you’re proposing attempts to outsource blame for their misbehavior as well. I find that argument silly, and not in keeping with observable data.

              The basis for my comment is that over the last couple decades, we’ve seen steady trends from animal producers: more crowded unsanitary conditions for animals, more prophylactic antibiotic use (despite growing panic and repeated urging to knock it off, from both medical and legal circles), faster line speeds at packing houses, and less regulation. Thanks to government support (checkoff programs, etc) all sectors of the meat/egg/dairy industries have bottomless lobbying pockets, and pretty much get to write their own rules — that means every year the USDA and FDA have less and less ability to actually regulate anything. Anyone who tells you that this constellation of events is unrelated to foodborne illness is trying to peddle some snake oil.






              ^Not a bit of that is the responsibility of Joe Bloe who takes home a pack of [whatever meat], thinking it’s safe to eat.

              I see that you work for DTS Food Labs — ‘DTS offers testing services to food manufacturing industries such as the meat, dairy, confectionery, beverage and allied industries…’ http://www.foodprocessing-technology.com/contractors/quality_control/dts-food/ — I’m guessing that the industry under discussion helps pay your bills, yes? So it’s easy to see why you’d feel some loyalty, there; but that doesn’t make the premise you’re advocating any stronger.

              Sorry if I was flippant about it, but no way industrial animal ag gets a pass on the problems they’ve created. Now THAT… would be silly.

              1. Lee Kennedy

                The comments about me and my employer are uncalled for and inappropriate. Denying ‘ad hominim’, you apply it again.

                Anyway, moving on, you are weaving two separate issues together :

                1. the misuse of antibiotics, clearly a bad thing be it wrt animals or humans, and will have enormous rammifications for health going forward. I have no problems with that.

                2. the presence of Salmonella in chicken and the subsequent safety of the chicken flesh. The need to cook chicken to kill all pathogens is a long standing health measure, irrespective of antibiotics. An enormous number of food poisonings and deaths are directly attributable to people trying to prepare food in non-traditional ways. It is irresponsible to try to suggest that if antibiotics weren’t used we would be able to eat ‘chicken tartare’. Chjicken must be cooked. Bacterial poisonings from chicken meat are a sign of poor preparation.

                These two issues are both important but are parallel issues that cannot be used to justify each other.

                1. Tanya Sitton

                  According to yourlogicalfallacyis.com (a site I recommend, btw) definition of ad hominem fallacy is ‘Attacking your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument.’ From Merriam-Webster: 1.appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect 2. marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.

                  As I pointed out already, I’m not attacking your character, I’m disagreeing with your argument. That’s not ad hominem. It’s not that you are a bad person — I’m sure you’re quite nice, once one gets to know you. I’m saying the position you seem to be advocating is flawed, based on what I see in terms of evidence.

                  Regarding bias, you know, well: it exists. That’s why double-blind research models were invented, because when you feel loyalty to a particular industry or outcome, or approach data with preexisting expectations, it can sway how you view the evidence. So I don’t see how it’s ‘uncalled for’ or ‘inappropriate’ to note that someone advocating for the animal ag industry happens to work for the animal ag industry. Bias exists, and it’s at least potentially relevant within the frame of this discussion.

                  I’m glad we agree that agricultural misuse of antibiotics is a problem. That’s part of the current food contamination issue, which you seemed earlier to be arguing is totally the responsibility of consumers vs. industry. It isn’t, and I’m happy we’re on the same page about that after all.

                  Regarding salmonella in chicken, as someone else here pointed out, salmonella contamination is a poop problem. Its prevalence in chicken meat is directly proportional to that meat’s contamination by fecal matter, which is absolutely an industry-responsibility issue. As we’ve seen less regulation of the meat industry, we’ve seen increased incidence of poop in the meat, increased incidence of contaminated food recalls, and increased incidence of foodborne illness outbreaks. That is not an unforeseeable circumstance, somehow unrelated to meat industry policies and practices.

                  I’m not sure what you mean with that last sentence — these are two related issues, both linked to rampant misbehavior by industrial animal ag corporations exacerbated by joke-like ‘oversight’ by allegedly regulatory agencies; *I’m* not weaving them together, our modern animal production system is weaving them together and I wish they’d knock it off. When have I tried to ‘use one to justify the other,’ in this conversation?

                  Neither is justifiable — that’s kinda my point.

                  1. Lee Kennedy

                    Our firm is largely dairy focussed so we have no chicken manufacturers to show ‘loyalty’ to, nor to display a confirmation bias to. My comments should stand regardless of my employer’s line of business, don’t you think? I think we have both made our respective points.

    1. Heather Carr

      Salmonella is not native to chicken. Nearly every factory-farmed chicken in the U.S. is infected with salmonella, but they don’t have to be. Other nations have flocks that are not infected.

      Corporations could take measures to reduce and eventually eliminate the salmonella in their birds. They don’t because it would cost money.

      People are getting sick from salmonella because corporations want to make more profit – that’s the fuss.

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