Home Nutrition & Formulation Animal Proteins Chlorinated chicken, a controversial ingredient for petfood

Chlorinated chicken, a controversial ingredient for petfood

Chlorinated chicken, a controversial ingredient for petfood

In recent years, chlorinated chicken is an ingredient that has reached more than one debate in the pet food industry. This term has been increasingly heard more often, due to the impact of Brexit and how this might affect the quality of petfood.

Chlorinated chicken defined

The word ‘chlorinated’ refers to the process of washing the bird with an antimicrobial solution of chlorinated water. The purpose of this stage is to eliminate bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause diseases such as salmonella and campylobacter.

The controversy over this practice is between the European Union, which has banned this process, and the United States, which continues to practice it both in food production for humans and pets.

The European Union has commented that allowing this technique would be because of the health and welfare of animals. It states that when chlorinated water has to be used it is because during the life of the birds involved there were poor hygiene, health and welfare practices.

Issues with chlorinated chicken

The EFSA has questioned since 1997 the food safety of chicken from the United States due to their use of chlorinated water.

Kath Dalmeny (executive director of a British group of food and agricultural control) affirmed that, “Adequate food safety relies on clean production methods with high animal welfare, good disease resistance and traceability, and clear labelling guidelines, not just chemical washes at the end of the chain.”

The debate surrounding this practice focuses on two main issues:

1) Is it effective?

Studies conducted by a US university show that bacteria such as listeria and salmonella are active even after washing with chlorinated water. Washing with chlorine simply makes it impossible to detect them in the laboratory, which creates the false impression that the bird is free of bacteria.

2) Is it used to conceal animal abuse?

If the hygiene and welfare standards of the farms are high and ensure the wholesomeness of future human and pet food, there’d be no need to wash it with chlorine, since it would not contain harmful bacteria.

From this perspective, the practice would not be necessary unless one seeks to hide a low quality of hygiene and animal welfare in the entire production process, such as cleaning waste and exposure to sunlight.

In general, chlorinated chicken is used is because they have previously been given antibiotics to prevent possible infections due to hygiene conditions. Therefore, bathing with chlorinated water is a much cheaper process than using hygienic measures throughout the chain.

For their part, United States agencies such as the NCN cite several scientific studies that confirm that this practice does nothing more than protect the health of both humans and pets that consume food with chicken remains.

They add that they ensure that this substance is present in an insignificant quantity, so it does not modify the taste, texture or colour of the final product. While the FDA regulates the use of this technique, there is still the risk that producers will violate the rules. In cases where chicken contains a high amount of chlorine, it can begin to develop carcinogens.

Relationship to Brexit

The reality is that, with the departure of the United Kingdom, one of the main suppliers of pet food, from the EU, the member countries are driven to seek new horizons to meet the demand for pet food.

In this way, the United States is disqualified and is not a viable option, given that its products do not meet the quality standards of Europe.

The United States is the world’s largest producer of poultry meat, and almost a fifth of what it produces is exported. Its low welfare standards allow it to achieve one of the cheapest productions in the world. However, the European pet food market is one of the highest quality so they have never negotiated with relaxing their standards and requirements for pesticides, antibiotics and labelling.

The situation in Latin America

The consumption of chicken in Latin American countries such as Brazil or Argentina is double the consumption of European countries. Even so, the European market has potential, and imports of chicken are expected to increase, as long as it meets the requirements.

For example, Argentina imports a small quantity of poultry animals, and what is routinely controlled is the absence of pathogenic microorganisms such as: salmonellas ssp, sscherichia coli ssp, coliforms, enterobacteria, fungi, yeasts, listeria, and so on.


The United States, together with Brazil, will continue to be the countries with the greatest chicken exports.

Regarding our industry in particular, the most sensible thing will be too incorporate the knowledge that producers have about ingredients and animals that are used when producing pet food, since, as we well know, chicken is the most widely used in the pet food sector.

As discussed in a previous article when sustainability in the pet food industry was mentioned, any change, improvement or ban that is implemented in the human food production chain will consequently affect pet food suppliers, due to the large quantity of bits and pieces that are incorporated into pet food because they are discarded from the human food production chain. This is important to keep in mind.


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