Treating chicken is different from beef and pork”With beef and pork, we remove the hide,” Russell said. “Withpoultry, the skin (which has been exposed to the environment) iswhat’s being tested.”To further protect themselves and their families, consumers mustlearn to deal with raw poultry safely, too.”They need to handle it properly,” Russell said. “Any surfacethat raw chicken has contacted should be cleaned. And peopleshould be sure to wash their hands thoroughly before and afterhandling raw chicken.” By Brooke HatfieldUniversity of GeorgiaSalmonella contamination can cause major problems in Georgiapoultry plants. But one scientist’s efforts have preventedseveral plant shutdowns by helping reduce the level of bacteriain plants.”The biggest problem I hear from the industry is ‘I can’t get myarms around the Salmonella issue,'” said Scott Russell, a poultryscientist with the University of Georgia College of Agriculturaland Environmental Sciences.”Salmonella is a ubiquitous organism,” he said. “It can be foundin the environment, so it can be transferred to chickens easily.”Poultry problems are Georgia problemsAny problem connected to the poultry industry is a Georgiaproblem. Poultry is the state’s biggest agricultural industry,with more than $13 billion in annual farm income. Failure to meetfederal Salmonella standards can cause plant shutdowns, resultingin employee layoffs.With 750 to 1,200 workers per plant, such layoffs would costpoultry plants half a million dollars a day in sales, Russellsaid. To the workers, the income loss could be devastating.And if a plant is shut down, what happens to the live chickensthat are en route? If a processing plant is shut down because ofexcessive Salmonella levels, animal welfare problems surface,especially in the summer.Preventing plant shutdownsThis year, Russell has helped prevent shutdowns at five majorpoultry processing companies.The nature of poultry processing adds to the salmonella problem.Since most of the chicken is uncooked, it’s possible for bacteriain the bird to survive.”There will always be bacteria when you are dealing with rawpoultry products,” Russell said. “But (U.S. Department ofAgriculture) regulations dictate how meat plants follow rules interms of food safety.”The Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point(HACCP) system requires poultry plants to keep Salmonella levelson chicken carcasses below 23.5 percent.That percentage may sound high. “Actually, it’s really low whenyou look at it holistically,” Russell said. “We’re never going toget it to zero.”It just takes one cellA carcass needs to have only one Salmonella cell to test positivefor Salmonella.”The average number of Salmonella cells on a positive carcass isfour to five and almost always less than 30,” Russell said.The USDA tests carcasses for Salmonella for 51 days. If a plantfails, it has 30 days to fix the problem before testing resumes.The testing process outlined by HACCP allows for three strikesbefore a plant is shut down.”If they fail the third series, that’s when they’re in serioustrouble,” Russell said. Once a plant gets a third strike, it mustbe shut down and reevaluated before retesting can resume.When the USDA realizes there’s a problem in a Georgia plant, theycall Russell, a poultry production and processing microbiologist.He’s been helping poultry plants reduce pathogen levels since1997.Salmonella presents a complex problem. There’s no one way tocompletely eliminate it. Russell takes what he calls a”multihurdle approach.” He attacks the bacteria from many points.”The Salmonella problem must be approached in the field, as wellas in eggs and breeder chickens,” he said. “During hatching andgrow-out, flies must be controlled, and various points in theplant must be monitored and controlled.” Another poultry processing factor makes it hard to controlSalmonella.