“The United States and Denmark are at war. Not against each other, but against a common enemy–Salmonella on poultry products,” National Chicken Council President Mike Brown said in an opinion piece published in Food Safety News this week, available here. Brown was responding to a recent four-part series published in The Oregonian on how Salmonella in poultry is handled in Denmark.  Each part of the series is available at  www.oregonlive.com/oregonian/ by searching on “Salmonella in Denmark.”

Brown pointed out that “like Denmark, the U.S. poultry industry and the federal government recognize that Salmonella is a very serious issue and we use the best science, data and technologies available to protect public health. And, like Denmark, the U.S. poultry industry and federal agencies are waging this war on multiple fronts by taking a comprehensive approach to food safety, attacking Salmonella in breeder flocks, poultry farms, chicken feed and processing facilities. There are many battle tactics commonly deployed in each country to wage our respective wars on Salmonella, including vaccination programs; feeding probiotics; heat treatment of feed; biosecurity measures; and rodent and insect control on the farms.”

But there are different challenges here in the United States versus Denmark, Brown said. “An important caveat is that not all Salmonella are pathogenic to humans, and the methods of measuring Salmonella prevalence cannot be trusted as equivalent between countries.”

“Denmark, roughly the size of the state of Maryland, raises and processes about 100 million chickens per year. In the United States, Georgia alone processes 100 million chickens in about 20 days. So, while we’re fighting the same enemy, we’re fighting against different-sized armies. Here, we’re fighting against potential Salmonella in an army of about 8.6 billion chickens; Denmark is fighting against potential Salmonella in an army of about 100 million. We’re also feeding 308 million more people,” Brown said.

Brown also pointed out that from 2001 to 2010–the latest 10-year period for which data are available–“outbreaks related to E. coli, Salmonella and other pathogens decreased by more than 40 percent. In the past five years, Salmonella on whole chickens has decreased by 55 percent. According to the latest FSIS Quarterly Progress Report (July 1 through Sept. 30, 2013), 0.7 percent of young chicken carcasses in large plants tested positive for Salmonella — a fraction of the FSIS performance standard of 7.5 percent.”

“The incidence of human salmonellosis (from all sources) in the United States in 2012 was 16.42 cases per 100,000 people. Denmark’s rate was 21.4 cases per 100,000 for the same year. No matter if you are in Copenhagen or Columbus, safe handling and fully cooking poultry to 165 degrees F (74 degrees C) is what fully eradicates Salmonella,” Brown said.

“We all play an important role in ensuring food safety for our families. All chicken is safe when properly cooked and handled, and U.S. chicken producers and processors are continually seeking methods to make them even safer before leaving the plant, like our Danish counterparts. Not only is it the right thing to do and makes good business sense, but because our families eat the same chicken as you and yours, ” Brown concluded.