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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Chemicals used in processing chicken could be dangerous

The poultry industry in Georgia is the largest in the nation with about 100,000 people across the state working in the field. The state produces 26 million pounds of chicken each day which helps add $28 billion annually to the state's economy. However, plant employees and U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors are complaining that they are becoming ill from the chemicals used while working with chicken.

A former USDA inspector complained that she now needs to take regular oxygen and pills each morning after developing asthma in 2007. She worked as an inspector for years, but in 2006, the plants began using anti-microbial sprays to treat the chicken. The purpose of the sprays is to stop outbreaks of bacteria, especially salmonella. Her health problems began a short time later. Another woman, who is still working at the same Tyson plant as the first victim, also described her symptoms. She said that her skin, face, nose, chest and throat burn constantly and thinks that four years of breathing in the chemicals have caused the problems. Although the pair was employed by the same company, the same chemicals are used nationally.

A food safety expert explained that the USDA is constantly looking for ways to kill bacteria using the least expensive methods possible. He created a product that might be a safer way to kill the bacteria, although it's more costly. He hopes the costs can be lowered soon. Another person in the industry doesn't think that the current chemicals have undergone sufficient tests to prove their safety, especially when it comes to workers. The washes used on poultry can include numerous potent chemicals.

When a company uses chemicals around workers, they have a responsibility to ensure employee safety. A workers' compensation attorney can help an employee who has been damaged by undue exposure to toxic chemicals file a claim for benefits, including medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: WSB-TV, "Chicken plant workers say chemicals sprayed on carcasses making them sick", Kerry Kavanaugh, April 24, 2014

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