Campylobacter death toll ‘demands action’: industry insider

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

The campylobacter death toll demanded urgent industry action, said the industry insider
The campylobacter death toll demanded urgent industry action, said the industry insider

Related tags Chicken Campylobacter

The death toll from campylobacter food poisoning demands urgent industry action, a key industry insider has told this website, after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed a big increase in contamination levels last week.

More than two-thirds (70%) of chicken sold by supermarkets contained campylobacter infection, according to the latest FSA test results released on Thursday (November 27). The results covered six months of testing from February this year. Previous results published in August this year, covering the three months from February, had revealed that 59% of samples were infected with the potentially fatal food poisoning bug.

A key industry insider, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the totals of those killed and injured by campylobacter demanded a much more vigorous and effective response from the whole food industry.

“I think the points made at the​ [FSA] conference say it all,”​ the source told “110 dead. That’s 10 per month and 80,000 consumers stricken by life-changing illnesses.

“Those numbers demand an industry wide, more effective reduction strategy.”

‘Hang their heads in shame’

The FSA results drew widespread condemnation from commentators outside the food industry last week. Consumer pressure group Which? said supermarket bosses “should hang their heads in shame”.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “It’s vital that the industry cleans up its act and works hard to restore consumer confidence.”

Former government adviser Tim Lang went so far as to advise consumers to boycott chicken. “Dear British public, be outraged, act, withhold your money until you can have confidence in what you consume,”​ Lang wrote on The Guardian​ website. Lang, who is professor of food policy at London’s City University added: “This may not be an orthodox public health strategy but it is definitely what history shows works when standards are as dire as these results show them to be.”

Labour’s shadow food and farming minister Huw Irranca-Davies said the food industry and the government must work together to tackle alarming levels​ of campylobacter in fresh chicken.

“Consumers will rightly expect that all retailers take this issue extremely seriously and put in place robust measures to tackle the industry-wide challenge of reducing levels of campylobacter in chickens,”​ said Irranca-Davies.

Allegations of hygiene failings

After the horsemeat scandal and the recent allegations of hygiene failings in the poultry industry, the government must show leadership and restore confidence in the food sector, he added.

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) linked the rise of campylobacter to consumers’ hunger for cheap chicken.

Its director of food business Dr Tracey Jones said: “The link between bird welfare and public health cannot be ignored if we want a reduction in campylobacter.

“What’s clear is that our desire for cheap chicken, which is relentlessly driving down prices, is a fundamental barrier to solving this issue. It pushes producers to use chickens with higher growth rates and increases the number of birds in each shed, both of which are bad for animal welfare and increase the likelihood of campylobacter.”

Meanwhile, the British Retail Consortium said supermarkets were working, in partnership with other groups, to find ways of preventing campylobacter infections. Its director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Supermarkets are working even harder to find solutions to help consumers, such as leak-proof packaging for all raw chicken and new roast in bag products – this is our top priority for food safety.”

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1 comment


Posted by Chris,

Why are we not talking about the clear lack of basic food hygiene knowledge amongst the general public? Raw meat will never be 100% 'safe' therefore it is critical that people know about cooking food properly and preventing spread of bugs around the kitchen. This should be compulsory in schools! The food industry cannot be held accountable for every single issue affecting consumer health when most of the issues are caused by lack of proper education in what to choose to eat, and more recently, how to prepare it safely.

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