EFSA opinion on four substances used to decontaminate poultry carcasses: Assessment of effects on bacterial tolerance and antimicrobial resistance

EFSA has carried out an assessment on whether there is any increased bacterial tolerance and resistance to antibiotics from the use of four antimicrobial substances used to decontaminate poultry carcasses1. The EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) concluded that, despite a long history of use, no published data exist to indicate that the four substances, within the proposed conditions of use, will lead to increased bacterial tolerance to these substances or to increased resistance to therapeutic antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents. The Panel also encouraged further research on the likelihood of an increase in bacterial tolerance to these types of substances, and the possibility of their resistance to therapeutic antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents.

The BIOHAZ Panel noted that there was some evidence indicating bacterial tolerance to other antimicrobial substances or biocides2 which were not subject of this Opinion. However, these data were either based on laboratory experiments which do not always mirror “real-life” situations or resulted from the improper use of biocides.

EFSA delivered several opinions in 2005 and 2006 in relation to these four antimicrobial substances which looked at both the safety of using them on food and their effectiveness in killing or reducing bacteria. In evaluating the four substances, EFSA’s Panel on additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food(AFC) concluded that, based on the data available, there was no safety concern, within the proposed conditions of use. For its part, the BIOHAZ Panel looked at the effectiveness of one of the four substances, peroxyacids, and said that, owing to lack of sufficient data available to the Panel, including those submitted by the applicant, it was unable to say if these substances effectively killed or reduced bacteria on poultry.

The following previous Opinions were adopted by EFSA in relation to the four substances:

AFC Panel:

BIOHAZ Panel:

Joint AFC-BIOHAZ guidance document for submission of data:

  • EFSA’s BIOHAZ and AFC Panels also produced a joint guidance document concerning the submission of data for the evaluation of the safety and efficacy of substances for the removal of microbial surface contamination of foods of animal origin

European Commission, DG Health and Consumer Protection:

  • In parallel, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks and Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks have also published an Opinion on the environmental impacts and antimicrobial resistance effects through the environment of the four substances. Read more on the SCHER/SCENIHR joint opinion.

1 Chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorite, trisodium phosphate and peroxyacids. Such substances are presently in use in the USA to kill or reduce the number of bacteria, such as salmonella or campylobacter on poultry. At present, no such substances are authorised for use in the EU but permission may be given under EU legislation (EC Regulation No 853/2004) when preceded by a thorough scientific evaluation.
2 Chemicals used for eliminating pests, weeds, fungus etc., especially a pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide.

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