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Public Health (03-04-2008)

Scientific opinion on environmental impacts and antimicrobial resistance effects of 4 substances used for decontamination of poultry carcasses

The Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) jointly examined the environmental impacts of 4 chemical substances (chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorite, trisodium phosphate and peroxyacids) used to remove microbial surface contamination from poultry carcasses.

In their joint opinion, published today, the 2 Committees conclude that the direct discharge of chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorite and peroxyacids solutions may present a significant risk for receiving water bodies even after dilution with the slaughterhouse waste waters. However, the risk can be prevented by appropriate effluent treatment in a municipal waste water treatment plant. In the case of trisodium phosphate, discharge of solutions should be managed in order to avoid releasing phosphate into the aquatic environment, with the associated risk of eutrophication.

The Committees also evaluated potential residues in carcasses as a diffuse source of environmental releases. In this respect, a low environmental risk was estimated for 4 substances.

SCHER and SCENIHR assessed the possible effect on the emergence of antimicrobial resistance through the environment if these 4 substances were used in slaughterhouses for removing microbial surface contamination from poultry carcasses. Their opinion complements a recent opinion of EFSA on the possible contribution of these substances to antimicrobial resistance through food intake.

There is currently limited evidence on the potential of producing bacterial resistance after treating poultry with these 4 chemicals. Nevertheless, these chemicals are able to select less susceptible strains of Salmonella and some other pathogens. There is insufficient data to determine whether they may cause cross-resistance to antibiotics or the selection of specific microbial groups associated to resistance.

In addition, more information is needed from the manufacturing companies on the conditions for application of the 4 substances and the factors influencing the efficacy of the substances.

For more information on the SCHER/SCENIHR joint opinion please visit the following link:

For more information on the EFSA's opinion please visit the following link: