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Public Statements

Pickering Calls For Chicken Labeling Reform

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC


Today, at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol, Congressman Chip Pickering (R-Mississippi) and Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-California) called on the United States Department of Agriculture to reform their labeling regulations on "all natural" chicken. The bipartisan congressional effort urges the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to make stricter its standards for labeling fresh poultry.

About thirty percent of all fresh chicken sold to consumers has been "pumped up" through injection or vacuum tumbling with up to 15% water, sodium, binding agents like carrageenan (seaweed extract), and other additives. Under current standards, this chicken can still be labeled 100% natural.

"Consumers are being cheated in their wallets and their health. They are buying chicken by weight that has been injected with 15% sodium water. And they are buying chicken as a health conscious decision, but getting 800% more sodium per serving than truly natural chicken," Pickering said. "In a state like Mississippi where we face issues of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, we need a reform of these standards." Pickering also noted that poultry producers who truly are all natural face a marketing disadvantage by allowing their competitors to inject additives into chicken but still label them "all natural."

In a letter today, Pickering and Cardoza, who is the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture, specifically asked the USDA to prohibit the "natural" label to be used on "pumped-up" fresh chicken and that the "solution statements" which reveal what is injected in the chicken be more prominent on poultry labels and indicate each of the solution's ingredients.

In addition to Pickering and Cardoza, the Center For Science in the Public Intereste executive director Michael Jacobson also spoke at the press conference, "People shouldn't be paying chicken prices for saltwater. But some unscrupulous poultry producers add as much as 15 percent saltwater—and then have the gall to label such pumped-up poultry products "natural." Some in the industry euphemistically call chicken soaked or injected with salt water "enhanced chicken." Of course this isn't really about enhancing chicken, it's about enhancing profits. Someone's clucking all the way to the bank," Jacobson said. The Consumer Federation of America also supports this reform.

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