- Last week, Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Pilgrim's Pride recalled their chicken nuggets for contamination, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
- The Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride brand nuggets were both contaminated with rubber, and Perdue released its "fun shapes" chicken nuggets with incorrect labeling — the products contain milk, an allergen that is not declared on the product label.
- Tyson and Perdue recalled 36,000 pounds and 16,011 pounds of chicken nuggets respectively. Pilgrim’s Pride recalled 58,020 pounds of popcorn chicken.
Last week was a bad week for chicken producers. More than 100,000 pounds of chicken were recalled in total — which could leave consumers wary of these products going forward.
The USDA said that there have been no reports of "adverse reactions" due to consumption of these three major chicken producers so far. But this could potentially pose problems for the companies if any adverse effects of children ingesting rubber come to light.
Worth Sparkman, a Tyson spokesman, told the New York Times that the rubber came from a part of a seal on a piece of equipment used to produce nuggets. The seal was apparently pinched during the normal process that introduced fragments into the blend of nuggets, he said. There is a strong likelihood that a routine process gone awry was the reason behind the rubber in Pilgrim’s Pride nuggets as well as the mislabeling experienced by Perdue Farms.
This is not the first time that contamination has occurred for these companies. Last June, Tyson recalled about 3,100 pounds of frozen breaded chicken products when there was concern that the nuggets were contaminated with plastic. Earlier this year, Perdue Farms issued a recall after receiving complaints that indicated that pieces of wood were found in the gluten-free chicken pieces. Whether these companies lost consumer trust from the recalls is uncertain, but it comes as the chicken industry faces increased competition from beef, pork, turkey and plant-based meat options.
With so much tumult in the frozen chicken segment lately, it would behoove companies to reevaluate their best practices. According to a guide from Oregon State University, best practices begin with hygiene. The school specifically underscores the importance of regularly cleaning facilities and inspecting machinery. In addition, keeping the slaughter and packaging portions of the process separate should help process healthy and safe chicken. While these are simple suggestions, simplicity could be the key to keeping production safe.
At this point, it is critical that companies work to reestablish customer confidence in their frozen chicken products. Beyond avoiding any new recalls in the near future, Tyson, Perdue and Pilgrim’s Pride could appeal to consumers’ love of transparency on social media to alleviate consumer fears and allow them to peek in real time into the facilities that are producing the chicken nuggets that their families love.