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Chlorinated Chickens: A Poultry Processing Practice Under Scrutiny

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Last Updated on December 23, 2023 by Max

Welcome to the Ninth Part of Our Food Safety Series

In this installment of our series on food safety disparities, we delve into the contentious practice of using chlorine washes in poultry processing in the U.S. While intended to reduce pathogen levels, this method raises significant health and ethical concerns. We explore the implications of this practice, contrasting it with the European Union’s approach to poultry hygiene and its ban on chlorine washes.

Chicken, a lean and flexible source of protein, is a mainstay in many diets. Nevertheless, have you ever pondered the processing procedures your chicken undergoes before it ends up on your plate? A contentious method employed in the U.S. involves bathing chicken carcasses in a chlorine solution (U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), 2014).

This chlorine wash aims to eliminate harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can lead to foodborne illnesses. This forms part of a broader U.S. approach known as Pathogen Reduction, which seeks to curtail the presence of harmful bacteria in poultry products (U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), 1996).

Nevertheless, the application of chlorine washes in poultry processing has elicited concerns, mainly due to potential byproducts that form when chlorine interacts with organic matter on the chicken (Richardson et al., 2007). Certain compounds, including trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, are recognized as potential carcinogens (World Health Organization (WHO), 2005).

Contrastingly, the European Union has adopted a “farm to fork” strategy, emphasizing hygiene throughout the food production process and consequently prohibiting chlorine washes in poultry (European Commission, 2005). The EU believes such washes could mask poor hygiene standards in other stages of production (European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), 2008).

The chlorinated chicken issue brings another divergence in food safety regulations between the EU and the U.S., underlining the significance of transparency and hygiene in food production.

Are you cognizant of the processes your food undergoes before it arrives on your plate? Do these practices impact your dietary choices? We encourage your participation as we continue to delve into these differing practices.


Our exploration of chlorinated chickens in the U.S. food industry raises important questions about food safety standards and production transparency. The stark differences between EU and U.S. regulations highlight the varying priorities in food production processes. How does the knowledge of such practices influence your choices as a consumer? We invite you to reflect and share your thoughts on the importance of understanding the food journey from farm to fork.


  • U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). (2014). New Performance Standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in Young Chicken and Turkey Slaughter Establishments. Washington, D.C.: FSIS.
  • U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). (1996). Pathogen Reduction; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems. Washington, D.C.: FSIS.
  • Richardson, S.D., et al. (2007). Occurrence and Mammalian Cell Toxicity of Iodinated Disinfection Byproducts in Drinking Water. Environmental Science & Technology, 41(20), 6860-6868.
  • World Health Organization (WHO). (2005). Nutrients in Drinking Water. Geneva: WHO.
  • European Commission. (2005). Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 on Microbiological Criteria for Foodstuffs. Brussels: European Commission.
  • European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2008). Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Biological Hazards on a Request from the European Commission on the Use of Acidified Sodium Chlorite (ASC) Solution as an Antimicrobial Treatment for Poultry Carcasses and Meat. EFSA Journal, 6(7), 684

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