Unknown Chemical at One of the Largest Poultry Plant has People Quitting

Mountaire Farms poultry plant in Robeson County, North Carolina is currently seeing high number of people quitting, and it isn’t the Coronavirus.

Instead, people have been complaining of a new unknown chemical that they’d begun smelling since about 4 months ago. The chemical is unidentified, but the workers have complained that it causes a sharp, suffocating kind of odor that seems like it is “invading your brain,” according to a worker at the plant.

The chemical is reported to be stinging to the eyes and throat, as well as burning in the nasal cavity. Many are now struggling with headaches, sneezes, as well as mucus secretion and sore throat. Some workers have suggested that it is in the water with the chickens because when the mist gets into the eyes is when it stings like acid.

Poultry plants are considered to be inherently dangerous workplaces which can lower some liability, OSHA still requires the plants to properly manage risks associated with chemical use which is needed to clean and prepare massive amount of chicken carcasses every day. After the bird is slaughtered, its feathers and internals removed, the remaining meat is washed, inspected, and chilled for shipping later. Chicken is usually washed with chlorine and other disinfectants to reduce pathogens like salmonella and campylobacter, along with Peracetic acid, which is used to kill or inhibit pathogen growth.

The washing process usually involves spraying chemicals either as spray or wash, or as part of water-chilling process to lower temperature. This procedure was banned by the EU in 1997 and has led to end of importation of chicken to Europe, but it is still fine in the U.S.

The Mountaire Farms’ Lumber Bridge plant has regularly processed 540,000 chickens a day. In 2009, a fatal ammonia gas leak killed one and injured three workers. The state regulators cited the company with 20 workplace violations. In 2015, the plant was implicated with salmonella outbreak in two states, which led to recall of 1.7 million pounds of chicken.

North Carolina is ranked as the worst in the nation for wage polices, worker protections, and right to organize according to OxFam America.

The new chemical remains unidentified.

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