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Multimillion Dollar Trade Agreement Stalled Over American Chickens

BOSTON (CBS) - A large trade agreement with Europe, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is being held up, by of all things, American chickens.

There have been protests in Europe because of concerns about the way chicken is processed here in the United States. Many American consumers, like Michelle Guidi, had no idea that American chickens are most often plunged into a chlorine laced bath immediately after being slaughtered.

Guidi thought purchasing organic poultry free of antibiotics and hormones gave her family a safe product. She didn't like learning that chickens take a chlorine bath. "My children swim in chlorine, but ingesting and eating it? I feel a little apprehensive."

Tom Super of the National Chicken Council says these baths are necessary, even if they do contain trace amounts of chemicals, "In order to kill pathogens that might be present, like salmonella."

Some chlorine does get absorbed in the meat, however. Government regulators say this use of chlorine is safe and effective in poultry processing. Studies show once chlorine hits the chicken, it breaks down into safe by-products.

The European Union isn't buying that argument, and they don't want to buy our chicken. French political ads show American chickens rolling in swimming pool water. Protesters believe there is an increased risk of cancer associated with birds processed in this manner.

Tony Corbo of Food & Water Watch explained that European safety standards are different than American methods. It is called the precautionary principle. "Since there is controversy about using chlorine and other chemicals in poultry processing, they have decided to keep our poultry out."

More American shoppers are also looking for an alternative. Sales of so-called "Air Chilled Chickens" are up, according to Ron Savenor of Savenor's Market and Butcher Shop in Cambridge.

Instead of going thru the chlorinated water process, the chickens are subjected to very cold air. No preservatives are involved.

Savenor said the chickens taste better too. In fact, he offers his customers a money back guarantee if they don't think these chickens are the best they've ever tasted. "And I haven't given any money back," he added.

Air chilled chicken can run about $2 more a pound than regular chicken. Guidi said she'd be willing to pay more for chlorine free chicken.


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