“This war and a concern about [the big four supermarkets’] market share with the discounters has got to come second to making sure campylobacter is overcome,” Hall told FoodManufacture.co.uk in this exclusive video interview.
‘Making sure consumers were protected’
“I think there’s a huge focus on each retailer minimising … its losses of sales and margins from the discounters and I think it’s time we had a bigger focus on making sure consumers were protected from campylobacter,” he said in the video filmed at the Institute of Food Science & Technology’s spring conference.
While acknowledging the food industry's efforts to control campylobacter, Hall said little progress had been made over the past seven months. “With the exception of the yet-to-be-proven benefit of roaster bags, I don't think we've achieved a great deal of step forward,” he added. “I still think campylobacter is a huge risk to consumers.”
Hall repeated claims made at the Food Manufacture Group's Food safety conference last autumn that rapid surface chilling offered one of the most promising ways of controlling campylobacter infection of fresh chicken but was being blocked by retailers on cost fears.
Blocked by retailers
Campylobacter and price war
“I think there’s a huge focus on each retailer minimising … its losses of sales and margins from the discounters and I think it’s time we had a bigger focus on making sure consumers were protected from campylobacter”
- Jeremy Hall
“I still think the cost of 10p extra [for rapid surface chilling] on the cost of a £4 or £5 bird is a small price. Most consumers I’ve talked to say they would be very happy to pay that if they knew the product was much safer and far less likely to give them or their family food poisoning.”
In a bid to combat campylobactor on Bernard Matthews turkeys, Hall revealed the firm planned to install a rapid surface chilling unit on its premises this autumn.
FoodManufacture.co.uk has invited the British Retail Consortium to respond to Hall's claims.
Speaking at the same event, chief policy adviser at consumer pressure group Which? Sue Davies urged the next government to step up Britain's control of campylobacter.
Meanwhile, a total of 73% of shop-bought while raw chickens tested positive for campylobacter, according to the latest survey results published by the Food Standards Agency in February.
Asda topped a list of supermarkets with the highest levels of campylobacter infection, with 78.9% of samples testing positive for some level of contamination. Morrisons was second with a score of 76.2% and the Co-operative Group was third with 76.5% of samples showing contamination.
The latest advice on controlling campylobacter and other hot food safety topics will take centre stage at our food safety conference on Tuesday September 29 at the Lowry, Manchester. More details are available here.