Update: 343,000+ pounds of Chilean Chicken with Dioxin Recalled

Posted on August 15, 2013 by

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has expanded the amount of product being recalled by the Chilean Ministry of Health. After official notification from the government of Chile of the positive result for dioxin, FSIS instructed importers to hold chicken products, which were presented for re-inspection. FSIS has determined that 343,637 lbs of chicken may be affected and 155,595 lbs is currently being held. Through effectiveness checks, FSIS has determined that 188,042 lbs was distributed to federal establishments for further processing, a distributor and retail locations in Florida, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.

The Chilean Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture oversees the recall activities and investigations in Chile. FSIS continues to verify through effectiveness checks that all receivers of affected product from the Chilean-initiated recall have been notified and have removed product from commerce. FSIS will take appropriate action if prohibited activity is found.

Information for Consumers
FSIS conducted an analysis of the Chilean test results and determined that the risk to consumers is negligible. FSIS continues to investigate distribution of the product and will take immediate action on new information.

Information for Industry
FSIS has reason to believe, based on information provided by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture, that recent shipments of poultry from Chile contain dioxin, and, because they have been recalled, they are unfit for consumption. Therefore, all products produced at San Vicente establishment [Chilean establishment 0608] on the affected dates [May 30, 2013 and June 12, 2013] are considered adulterated and should be destroyed.

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Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, had poignant questions about USDA’s system for regulating imports.

A “public notification” issued by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on the afternoon of Saturday, July 27, regarding the recall of nearly 200,000 pounds of chicken imported from Chile due to dioxin contamination, exposes gaps in the USDA’s system for protecting the public.

  1. When did FSIS first learn of the problem and was there a lag in issuing a press release on the issue?
  2. What role did FSIS port-of-entry inspection procedures play in the identifying this problem?
  3. The 2012 audit of Chilean food safety system conducted by FSIS indicated that the Chilean food safety authority was bolstering its staff training on dioxin contamination in meat and poultry products. How long has dioxin contamination been an issue with imported products from Chile?
  4. According to the World Health Organization, “Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer” and “due to the highly toxic potential of this class of compounds, efforts need to be undertaken to reduce current background exposure.” Therefore, why does FSIS not consider this particular case a serious public health concern? Why was the press release not a “recall” or a “public health alert” – a phrase that the agency has decided to use in recent months in the case of imported meat, poultry, and egg products – to accurately reflect the severity of the problem?

There have been other food safety issues with imported food products from Chile. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently has 15 Import Alerts posted on its website for various imported food products from Chile ranging from pesticide contamination on imported fruit to seafood containing high levels of methyl mercury.

Posted in: Family safety