December 8, 2008
US poultry group hits chicken truck study

Washington-based National Chicken Council (NCC) has criticised the study allegedly of bacteria spreading while chicken on trucks are being transported to processing plants.

NCC Director of Science and Technology Steve Pretanik said the study --conducted by Dr. Ellen Silbergeld from the Johns Hopkins University-- is rather "unfocused, unrealistic and rather unsafe".

According to Pretanik the study "collected samples of Enterococcus bacteria, however, Enterococcus is a large genus of species, and only two particular species are of any significant concern to human health: E. faecalis and E. faecium and the study did identity the particular species collected." He said, it is unknown if the bacteria in the study are actually a hazard to human health, especially at the low levels found.

Furthermore, Enterococcus is notorious for its high level of endemic antibiotic resistance, says Pretanik. That is, no matter where you find Enterococcus, there is a good chance that it will be resistant to antibiotics. The level of resistance found by the study may very well be typical of these bacteria regardless of the setting, he continues.

Pretanik blasts Dr Silbergeld's chicken truck study, stating it is "unrealistic in that few people would choose to tailgate a load of live chickens for 17 miles with the windows rolled down. Most people would have the sense to stay out of the truck's slipstream, thereby avoiding the hazards she claims to have found."

Pretanik also questioned the safety aspects of the study: "The chase vehicle closely followed (the study says "two or three car lengths") several tractor-trailers on a four-lane highway, presumably moving at 55 miles per hour. The recommended safe following distance is at least five seconds. The close range described in the study is quite dangerous. If the truck had been required to hit the brakes, the chase vehicle could have slammed into the truck. Tailgating a tractor-trailer is much more dangerous than being around live chickens."

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