‘Incapable’ slaughterhouses put lives at risk – Unison

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Many of Europe's slaughterhouses don't operate to the highest of standards
Many of Europe's slaughterhouses don't operate to the highest of standards

Related tags Chicken Meat Campylobacter

Many poultry slaughterhouses in Europe are incapable of producing safe meat that’s free from disease, faeces, abscesses and septicaemia, a shaming report from the trade union Unison has claimed.

UK consumers faced a real risk of food poisoning from supermarket and foodservice chicken as a result, Unison said.

However, they would be at a greater risk if European Commission (EC) plans to remove independent meat inspectors from Europe’s slaughterhouses went ahead later this year, it added.

Unison-commissioned research examined the audits of inspections carried out at 72 poultry slaughterhouses between 2010 and 2014 by the EC’s Food and Veterinary Office in countries including Italy, France, Romania and Estonia.

“Widespread cases of chicken meat with faecal contamination, mainly as a result of carcasses being sprayed with water on production lines,” ​were uncovered, the report said.

Contaminants spread

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary:

“These threatened EU changes mean they ​[slaughterhouses] will effectively be allowed to mark their own homework.”

Water spraying caused contaminants to be spread over a wide area to other meat, as well as surfaces and equipment, it added.

 “Cross-contamination spreads dangerous bacteria, such as campylobacter – the major cause of food poisoning in Britain.”

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: “The people inspecting the meat we eat should be independent of the slaughterhouse owner, who benefits financially from sending as many birds as possible into the human food chain.

“These threatened EU changes mean they ​[slaughterhouses] will effectively be allowed to mark their own homework.”

However, Unison was just “scaremongering” ​and deliberately confusing hygiene issues with quality issues, British Meat Processors Association director Stephen Rossides said.

The EC’s proposal was still under negotiation and it was unlikely the basic features of the “current regime” ​would change, he added.

Continuing presence

Rossides believed there would be a continuing presence of official veterinarians in plants and meat hygiene inspectors working under their supervision.

Two thirds of chicken sold in the UK was contaminated with campylobacter and responsible for at least 280,000 cases of food poisoning in the UK in 2014, according to Food Standards Agency (FSA) figures. Campylobacter caused 110 deaths in the same year.

UK supermarkets, in conjunction with the FSA, have been working to lower the amount of campylobacter on poultry.

Retailers were gaining ground on the bug​, which infected 73% of chickens sold in supermarkets between February 2014 and February 2015, according to the FSA.

Supermarkets, including Morrisons and Asda, had made good progress, recent figures showed. Morrisons indicated that only 2.3% of its whole chickens were contaminated with campylobacter.

Asda claimed 64% of its whole chickens were contaminated to some extent, but levels were below the industry average.  

Related topics Meat, poultry & seafood

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1 comment

Happy chicken

Posted by Carole Weinstein,

Try koshering your chicken. Remove the wrap, soak in cold water for half hour, drain and sprinkle well all over with salt leaving 1 hour. Pour boiling water over to remove salt, place in dish in oven to roast or wrap and put in fridge till ready to use. You will know if it off because chicken stinks to high heaven when it is.

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