ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Jill Lee, (301) 504-1627, firstname.lastname@example.org
November 12, 1998
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Nov. 12--A new device from USDA researchers clears
disease-causing organisms from the air in poultry houses, protecting chicks
the moment they hatch, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Richard Rominger said
here today at the opening of a two-day National Conference on Food Safety
"American consumers expect healthful, quality food," said Rominger. "Our
meat and poultry are fundamentally safer, thanks to cutting-edge research
like this that systematically seeks out and destroys sources of
Rominger said the USDA researchers recently applied for a patent on their
system that uses a negative electrostatic charge to collect dust particles
in hatching cabinets.
Airborne particles often give Salmonella bacteria a free ride to chicks'
feathers and lungs. One infected chick can quickly spread the bacteria
throughout an entire hatching cabinet. That increases the risk of Salmonella
for consumers as adult birds are grown for food.
The new instrument collects charged dust from the air and deposits it onto
plates that are automatically rinsed several times an hour.
"In separate laboratory tests by USDA researchers, this tool reduced
Salmonella by 95 percent in week-old birds and in egg-laying hens," Rominger
said. "It appeared to have similar effects when tested in commercial
The electrostatic approach may also control Salmonella spread. In other
experiments with Salmonella-infected chicks, it reduced airborne
transmission by 99 percent. But the system may offer even more protection:
preliminary swab tests with the laying hens seem to show the charge kills
Mandated by Congress, the Nov. 12-13 conference at the Ramada Plaza Old Town
serves as a national forum on food safety. Attendance is free and open to
the public. About 30 scientists, regulatory agency personnel and policy
makers are discussing future food safety research priorities in university
and federal laboratories. The conference is co-sponsored by USDA's
Agricultural Research Service and Cooperative State Research, Education and
The poultry research Rominger cited is just one example of recent findings
on food safety.
The air-cleaning system was developed by ARS agricultural engineer Bailey
Mitchell and veterinarian Henry Stone. They are based at the agency's
Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga.
Mitchell explained how the device could also improve farmers' profits.
Recent test results suggest it may increase the number of chicks hatched by
an average of 1 percent. Eggs that result in healthy chicks earn farmers a
"Multiply that 1 percent increase by the millions of eggs these farmers sell
in a week and you see the potential for increased profit," Mitchell said.
"We've already gotten several calls from companies interested in licensing
the patent or installing systems in hatcheries."
Scientific contact: Bailey Mitchell, ARS Southeast Poultry Research
Laboratory, Athens, Ga., phone (706) 546-3443, fax (706) 546-3161,
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