USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in the future will handle Avian Leukosis as a “trimmable condition,”  meaning the carcasses of poultry affected with one or more of the several forms of avian leukosis complex will no longer be condemned. 

The change comes in response by FSIS to a March 1, 2019 petition from the National Chicken Council.  The petition from the National Chicken Council specifically asked FSIS “ to treat lesions that could be suspected as being caused by avian leukosis as a trimmable condition and not a condition that requires whole bird condemnation.”

Under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), the first 300 birds in an incoming flock are checked for avian leukosis.

“Amending the regulations is supported by scientifically and economically sound rationales: avian leukosis does not present a food-safety risk, modern understanding of the avian disease is much more advanced than when FSIS first developed its policy, the condition is not a systemic disease, modern vaccination and breeding programs have all but eliminated avian leukosis, and amending the regulation would reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens,” the petition said.

Assistant Administrator Rachel Edelstein of the FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development let the National Chicken Council know by letter on July 16 that its petition was accepted.

“After careful consideration, FSIS has decided to grant your petition,” she wrote.  “We have determined that current scientific evidence supports treating avian leukosis as a trimmable condition and that the actions requested in your petition would reduce regulatory burdens on the industry. A description of the proposed rulemaking initiated in response to your petition is included in the Spring 2020 Unified  Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.”

The Chicken Council’s petition offered this explanation for the change:

In summary, the FSIS avian leukosis check and whole bird condemnation requirement serve no meaningful public health purpose, and continuing to mandate these requirements reflects outdated inspection practices that are not scientifically sound given today’s understanding of leukosis and modern flock management practices. A scientifically based inspection system should treat avian leukosis consistent with any other trimmable condition where establishments are required to remove any visible lesions, regardless of whether they are associated with leukosis or another condition.”

The National Chicken Council (NCC) is the national, non-profit trade association whose primary purpose is to serve as the advocate and voice for the U.S. broiler chicken industry in Washington, D.C.  The Council’s mission is to influence important legislative and regulatory policies and government programs that affect chicken; communicate with Washington policymakers and the media about chicken production, processing, and products; affect domestic and international trade policy to maintain and expand foreign markets for U.S. chicken, and promote and protect the image and reputation of the industry.
NCC member companies include chicken producer/processors, poultry distributors, and allied industry firms. The producer/processors account for approximately 95 percent of the chickens produced in the United States.NCC was first established in 1954 in Richmond, Virginia, as the National Broiler Council. NCC headquarters moved to the nation’s capital in 1965 and the new name, National Chicken Council, was adopted in 1998, to better describe the industry and its products.

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