ATLANTA, Ga. – US poultry producers need to understand both their rights and their responsibilities, such as compliance with food-safety regulations and the importance of educating consumers, said Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety, in her opening remarks at the Pre-Harvest Food Safety Conference during the recently held 2012 International Poultry Expo and International Feed Expo in Atlanta.

“One thing they cannot do is ignore pressing issues and scientific realities,” added Dr. Alling Yancy, vice president of food safety and production programs for the US Poultry & Egg Association, while presenting on the topic of Poultry Industry Concerns Regarding Pre-Harvest Food Safety Regulatory Initiatives.

Interactions between animals, humans and the environment are in the forefront as never before, said Dr. Steven Clark, senior technical services manager-poultry at Pfizer Animal Health. One of the most significant challenges is how to preserve the efficacy of antibiotics, he added during his presentation on Current Trends in Antibiotic Usage in Food Animal Production. A framework for understanding how to use them judiciously is necessary because these drugs will be needed in both humans and animals for the foreseeable future.

Antibiotics are important not only for human health but also for animal health, Clark said. “They also have implications for food safety; we can indirectly understand how healthy animals produce healthy food. In addition, there are economic benefits for everybody,” he added.

Most breeders are taking biosecurity measures on their farms, vaccinating their birds and conducting water and litter testing, while smaller numbers reported regularly washing vehicles, cages, crates and other equipment, according to results of a pre-harvest intervention survey for best practices in pathogen control.

“Much of this information is encouraging,” said Dr. Shelly McKee, associate professor in the Poultry Products Safety and Quality Program, Department of Poultry Science, Auburn Univ. “But there is no silver bullet. This is risk mitigation. Someday maybe we can get to eradication; but today if we can mitigate risk during pre-harvest, the things we do at the processing plant may help control some of these pathogens better.”