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Questions and Answers about PREEMPT

USDA Researchers Create New Product That Reduces Salmonella in Chickens

By Sandy Miller Hays
March 19, 1998

WASHINGTON, March 19--A new product created by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture significantly reduces potential salmonella contamination in chickens, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced today in a speech at the National Press Club.

"Our greatest weapon in the battle to ensure food safety is new technology," said Secretary Glickman. "Today our priority food safety research has really paid off, giving us the ability to significantly reduce potentially dangerous salmonella contamination in the chicken Americans eat."

In U.S. field tests involving 80,000 chickens, the product, called PREEMPT, reduced salmonella from about seven percent in untreated chickens to zero percent in the treated. The Food and Drug Administration this week approved PREEMPT, marking the first time FDA has approved a mixture of bacteria as a type of animal drug known as a "competitive exclusion product." The new product preempts the growth of salmonella in chickens' intestines by introducing a blend of 29 live, non-harmful bacteria naturally present in healthy adult chickens.

It has long been known that chickens at least three weeks old have a natural resistance to salmonella colonization in the intestines. Scientists have also known that administering baby chicks the bacteria from older chickens protected the chicks from salmonella. But scientists did not know exactly which of the intestinal bacteria were most effective. The newly developed mixture can be sprayed in a mist over newly hatched chicks to give them the same level of salmonella resistance that develops in an older bird.

"This approval marks another successful step in the concerted effort FDA, USDA, and other government agencies have made to enhance the safety of the nation's food supply," said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., FDA's lead deputy commissioner. "FDA is committed to facilitating the development of any promising technology that can improve food safety at every stage -- from farm to table."

PREEMPT is the successful result of a public-private partnership. USDA scientists worked with MS Bioscience of Dundee, Illinois to develop PREEMPT. USDA has patented the mixture. MS Bioscience has a licensing agreement to market the product. A similar product, developed by the same research group, is now being tested in pigs.

Salmonella may be transmitted to people via contaminated poultry. While PREEMPT can help poultry producers reduce the risk of salmonella contamination, it should be used as part of a comprehensive series of proper food handling and preparation measures designed to minimize the risk posed by all potential foodborne pathogens. Chicken must still be properly handled and thoroughly cooked to be safe.

There are an estimated 2 million cases of salmonella poisoning each year. Of these, about 40,000 cases are culture-confirmed. Most exposure is from raw or undercooked meat, poultry, milk and eggs. The human health care bill for salmonellosis averages about $4 billion annually.

Scientific contact: Donald Corrier, ARS Food Animal Protection Research, College Station, Texas, phone (409) 260-9484, fax (409) 260-9332,

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