Campylobacter is the UK’s most common food bug, and the FSA says that almost two thirds of raw chickens sold here are contaminated with it: 300,000 people a year become sick as a result and around 80 die.
Consequently, tackling the bug is the agency’s top priority, and the agreed target involves reducing bird levels in the highest contamination category (out of three) from 27% to 10% by 2015, which the FSA says could reduce campylobacter cases by up to 30%.
Dr Alison Gleadle, director of food hygiene at the FSA, said: “There are about 850m chickens slaughtered in this country every year. This target is challenging but achievable. However, solutions need to be found at every stage of the food chain to stop this bug from spreading.”
How to cut campylobacter?
Actions under consideration to achieve the target include use of modified atmopshere packaging, better farm hygeine, hot water treatment or steaming chicken carcasses, use of electrolysed water and (where this measure requires EU approval) anti-microbial washes such as lactic acid.
Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council said that while simple farm hygeine was not enough, he was "confident" about meeting the plan's target: “Additional actions are being trialled in combination on farms, in the slaughterhouse, and in the distribution chain to reduce the levels of infection."
Andrew Opie, director of food policy at the British Retail Consortium, said: “We’re looking forward to working closely with the agency and the poultry supply chain to make sure the target can be achieved by 2015.”