Avian Leukosis Complex (avian leukosis) is a rare condition in chickens that may lead to virally induced, tumor-causing diseases, none of which can be transmitted to humans. Under current regulations, FSIS inspects each carcass and condemns any that appear to be affected by avian leukosis.1 In a proposed rule issued on March 14, 2022,2 FSIS announced plans to rescind this regulation and instead permit tumors to be trimmed from carcasses affected with avian leukosis, allowing the unaffected parts of the carcass to pass inspection and continue through processing.3 The proposed rule explains and summarizes current research that supports the position that avian leukosis does not present a human health concern and that poultry affected with the disease are not unsound or otherwise unfit for human food.
The proposed rule would also rescind two other regulations that require young chicken establishments operating under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) to provide a leukosis inspection area during processing and prescribe procedures for this inspection.4 FSIS currently inspects the first 300 carcasses and viscera (internal organs) of each new flock for avian leukosis during processing at these establishments. The change would provide modest flexibility in that NPIS plants would no longer need to provide space and time for leukosis checks.
The proposed rule was prompted by a March 2019 petition from the National Chicken Council (NCC) that asked FSIS to amend the regulations and designate avian leukosis as a trimmable condition.5 The petition asserted that the existing regulations requiring condemnation of the entire carcass do not reflect current science, which demonstrates avian leukosis is not a food safety concern and cannot be transmitted to humans. It noted that the condemnation and inspectional requirements impose unnecessary costs on industry, presenting a barrier to young chicken establishments that may want to convert to NPIS. FSIS advised NCC in March 2020 that it would grant the petition and move forward with drafting the recently-released proposed rule.6
Comments on the proposed rule are due May 13, 2022. Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can assist with drafting comments regarding these changes.
Authored by Brian D. Eyink and Connie Potter.