The N.C. Division of Air Quality has fined a Mountaire Farms chicken processing plant in Robeson County the amount of $27,410, for violations leading to an ammonia release that killed one worker in June 2009, according to a report inThe Charlotte Observer.

The division said Friday it has fined Mountaire Farms Inc. of Lumber Bridge, N.C., the maximum possible for a single violation because of the severity of the incident and previous problems.

A ruptured hose led to the release of ammonia at the facility, resulting in the death of employee Clifton Swain, 47, and injury to three others. To read more background on this story, go to The Charlotte Observer’s Web site via the link below.

Source: The Charlotte Observer

AMI urges action on carcass irradiation petition

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should move forward with rulemaking in response to a petition filed more than four years ago by the American Meat Institute (AMI), which asks USDA to recognize carcass surface irradiation as a processing aid. By initiating a rulemaking process that involves all stakeholders, any questions, concerns and data can be addressed in an open and transparent manner,” said American Meat Institute Executive Vice President James H. Hodges.

Hodges was responding to several inaccurate reports about the status of the petition, which remains under consideration at USDA and has not been rejected, contrary to some news reports.

According to Hodges, by filing its petition on July 8, 2005, AMI asked FSIS to recognize the use of low dose, low penetration electron beam irradiation applied to the surface of chilled beef carcasses as a processing aid and, accordingly, that the process need not be labeled on products derived from the carcass. In that petition, AMI said carcass irradiation should be treated as a “processing aid” because it only treats the the surface of the carcass and does not irradiate the entire product. Other processing aids applied to the exterior of carcasses do not trigger product labeling and this technology should not either.

“FSIS has all the information it needs to move forward with rulemaking, Hodges said. During the rulemaking process, FSIS should set the parameters by which this technology is permitted to be used. The role of government is to establish the standards for using this safe and effective technology. Companies that meet the standards and parameters set by FSIS in a rule should be permitted to include this effective intervention in their food safety systems,” he added.

“This is a different application of a proven technology, but one that merits a prompt review in an open rulemaking process,” Hodges said today. “Given FSIS’ important role in ensuring public health, the agency should work to remove road blocks that prevent the adoption of safe and promising technologies. USDA has the authority to initiate this rulemaking today and could have done so even absent a petition.”

A copy of the initial request can be found here:

Source: AMI press release

New poultry industry safety recognition program announced

To recognize those facilities that have achieved a high level of safety performance through the implementation of innovative and effective safety and health programs, the Joint Poultry Industry Safety and Health Council announces the first annual safety award program. The program is open to National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association members with poultry processing plants, hatcheries, feed mills or rendering facilities that have injury and illness rates below the industry average for three consecutive years.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the workplace injury and illness rates for the poultry industry have reduced by 73 percent over a 15 year period (1994 through 2008).

Award program rules and applications may be obtained at The application deadline for this year’s awards is March 15, 2010. The annual awards will be presented during the National Safety Conference for the Poultry Industry, June 9-11, 2010, at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL .

The Joint Industry Safety and Health Council is made up of members from the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation. Collectively, the three organizations represent 95 percent of the nation’s poultry products and employ hundreds of thousands of workers.

Source: Press release from The Joint Industry Safety and Health Council