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USDA Inquiry Confirms That Gold Kist Chicken Products Were Not Adulterated.

ATLANTA, April 12 /PRNewswire/ --

An inquiry by the USDA Office of the Inspector General into two Gold Kist Inc. poultry processing operations in Alabama found no evidence that adulterated products had been distributed to the public and no violations of law by the company or its employees, according to a summary report obtained by the company under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Inspector General's staff initiated the inquiry following a February 6, 2000, news article that alleged that tainted chicken products had been distributed from the plants into commerce and the USDA Commodity School Lunch Program. OIG agents interviewed USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors and company employees at the Gold Kist plants at Guntersville and Boaz.

The report said the inquiry did disclose that there was a high incidence of airsacculitis in chickens grown for Gold Kist and other processors in the North Alabama area. However, the OIG acknowledged that both FSIS and Gold Kist management were addressing the lung disease problem with medication and intensified flock management practices. The OIG report also recognized that there was a serious dispute between some FSIS inspectors, who are members of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals union, and FSIS management over whether current USDA policies and procedures provided sufficient protection to consumers. The inspectors union is conducting a campaign to stop full implementation of a new and improved inspection system because they fear some inspectors might lose their jobs or be forced to move to other locations to work for FSIS.

Evidence obtained by the OIG agents in the interviews led them to conclude that there was no basis for further OIG investigation. The report concluded that there were no violations of law or direct threats to the public health.

"We are pleased that the OIG report refuted the false charges made against Gold Kist Farms brand chicken products," said John Bekkers, Gold Kist president and chief operating officer. "Nothing is more important to us than supplying our customers with the highest quality chicken products. To help our industry reach a higher level of food safety and quality, we volunteered to be the first chicken plant to pilot-test the new science-based preventive food safety program. We regret that the alarmist and false comments by certain inspectors caused problems for our school lunch customers and others. It has damaged our good reputation and disrupted school lunch programs at a number of school districts across the United States."

Under the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project being tested by Gold Kist, plants are extending their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems to cover activities conducted at slaughter to remove from the food supply poultry that is not safe for human consumption. Before it started the pilot test of the new program last October, Gold Kist established even tighter internal standards that those established by FSIS as added assurance that chicken products would be wholesome and of uniformly high quality.

"As we have assured our customers all along, Gold Kist Farms brand chicken products are safe, wholesome and good to eat," Bekkers said. We appreciate that this was recognized in the OIG report."

Gold Kist Inc. is the second largest and only farmer-owned poultry processor in the United States. Farmers in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and North and South Carolina contract with the Company to produce approximately 15 million chickens per week. Products are marketed under the Gold Kist Farms? brand name, private labels and store brands. Other operations include aquaculture research and improved catfish breeding stock production, pork production and participation in joint ventures engaged in peanut and pecan processing and marketing. Headquartered in Atlanta, Gold Kist employs approximately 18,000 people and serves customers throughout the United States and in many foreign countries.
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Publication:PR Newswire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 12, 2000
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