US chicken is safe for SA - world poultry council chief

Georgia - South African consumers have once again been assured that US chicken is safe to eat.

This is according to president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council James Sumner, who is also the president of the International Poultry Council.

"The US poultry industry is happy to be back in the South Africa market," Sumner told Fin24.

For the first time in over 15 years, US chicken is being sold in South Africa. This followed tough negotiations under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which paved the way for the US to export 65 000 tonnes of duty-free chicken to South Africa so that the country could continue to benefit from exporting various goods to the US duty-free.

However, there has been widespread concern amid claims that the chicken does not comply with South African standards, or the standards of poultry imported from other countries.

"I know there have been some questionable media reports about our products and I am happy to have this opportunity to explain that the US poultry industry is no doubt the highest poultry regulated industry in the world," said Sumner.

He said the US government, through the department of agriculture, sets the highest standards to prevent and deal with diseases and pathogens.

"We do not use any hormones in our product," said Sumner. "Our product is really the healthiest and safest product produced in the entire world and that is why the US is the number one producer of chicken in the world."

"I am here to give assurances to the South African consumers that the products that they consume from the US are wholesome and safe and produced to the highest standards."

It is not disputed that the US has a highly developed regulatory system of involvement in their poultry industry, South Africa Poultry Association CEO Kevin Lovell told Fin24.

"As the US industry is the largest in the world, more than 10 times bigger than our industry, an effective system is needed." However, he said this does not mean that it is better when it comes to food safety.

Lovell said the claim of being hormone-free is not an achievement since hormones have largely been eliminated from use.

"Everybody claims that their goods are best, but there is no independent competition to prove something like that."

The US is the world's biggest poultry producer for a number of reasons, said Lovell, such as a modern poultry production system, a large population and the high meat consumption in the US.

"Some smaller countries are very good at chicken production - for instance the Netherlands - but they will never be as big as the US."

* Fin24 is attending the US farm-to-fork programme as a guest of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

Photo: iStock

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