FSA to publish nine-month campylobacter survey

By Rick Pendrous contact

- Last updated on GMT

The results of the FSA's nine-month campylobacter survey, expected later this month, are eagerly awaited
The results of the FSA's nine-month campylobacter survey, expected later this month, are eagerly awaited

Related tags: Campylobacter contamination, The linde group, Campylobacter

Supermarkets will be waiting with bated breath for the results of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) first nine months survey of levels of campylobacter in poultry on sale at retail expected this month.

This follows publication at the end of November of the FSA’s six month survey of campylobacter, which attracted much adverse media criticism about the high levels of campylobacter contamination on fresh chickens on sale in high street supermarkets.

The November survey showed that 18% of fresh whole chickens tested had campylobacter more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram – the highest level of contamination – and more than 70% with some campylobacter on them.

‘Public and media interest’

“The survey and its results continue to excite a good level of public and media interest and, in my view, play an important role in ensuring that retailers remain focused as a matter of urgency on making the improvements that consumers have every right to expect,”​ FSA chief executive Catherine Brown reported to its Board last week.

A number of initiatives are underway along the supply chain to reduce levels of campylobacter contamination and the FSA has contacted the major multiples named and shamed in the last survey to inquire about the latest findings from these activities and ask how successful different interventions have been.

FSA boss Catherine Brown

“In short, we now need to see the commitments and investment from retailers and processors translated into sustained reductions in campylobacter incidence and levels on fresh chicken.”

Interventions have ranged from improved biosecurity on poultry farms and different surface treatments of chicken carcases following slaughter to reduce campylobacter loading, to the use of leak-proof bags and roasting bags to prevent cross-contamination in supermarkets and in the home.

‘Commitments and investment’

“In short, we now need to see the commitments and investment from retailers and processors translated into sustained reductions in campylobacter incidence and levels on fresh chicken,”​ said Brown.

She reported that more than 60 meat hygiene inspectors and official veterinarians would soon be working closely with poultry slaughterhouse management throughout the UK to discuss practical ways in which processing practices can be improved, for example, carcase washing arrangements.

Campden BRI last week (January 30) held a seminar on campylobacter at which the FSA’s chief vet spoke, together with speakers from developers of process technologies used to reduce levels of contamination on carcases following slaughter.

These included those behind the Sonosteam process, being evaluated by Asda supplier Faccenda, and the Rapid Surface Chilling technique, developed by Bernard Matthews and The Linde Group subsidiary BOC. Speakers from chicken processor 2 Sisters and Air Products also gave presentations.

The FSA’s Food safety Week, May 18–24, will once again focus on advising consumers how to avoid contracting foodborne campylobacter infections in the home.

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