Foodex 2016

Campylobacter ‘needs multiple interventions’: expert panel

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Answering camplyobacter questions (l to r) Rod Addy, Richard Griffiths, Jeremy Hall and Mike Stones
Answering camplyobacter questions (l to r) Rod Addy, Richard Griffiths, Jeremy Hall and Mike Stones

Related tags: Bacteria, Meat, Chicken

No silver bullet exists to stem high levels of the food poisoning bug campylobacter in contaminated fresh chicken in the food supply chain and “multiple interventions” will be required to reduce the risk, according to a panel of experts.

Speaking at the Food Manufacture Group’s Big Video Debate – Combatting campylobacter: the path ahead at the Foodex show, held at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham last month – Richard Griffiths, director of policy at the British Poultry Council described the various interventions that the poultry industry had been working on since 2009 to reduce the incidence of campylobacter.

Interventions range from better biosecurity on farms to new decontamination techniques during the primary processing of carcasses, through to the use of techniques such as ‘oven-ready packaging’ of whole birds, which reduce consumers’ contact with potential contamination.

‘A lot more work to do’ 

“Some of those​ [processes] are beginning to show fruit,”​ said Griffiths. “Our responsibility is to reduce that level on the products that people buy during production, but there is still a lot more work to do.”

He added “multiple interventions”​ would be necessary to be effective. These would include public health activities, such as “targeted interventions”​ at particularly vulnerable groups identified by Public Health England.

Bernard Matthews group technical director Jeremy Hall – an advocate of the Rapid Surface Chilling process for treating contaminated poultry – supported multiple interventions. But he questioned whether enough was being done, given that 280,000 cases of campylobacteriosis were still being reported each year.

“We still need to do considerably more if we are going to get the problem down and make the issue go away so that consumers are totally safe in terms of taking products from the​ [supermarket] shelves into their kitchens.”

Questioned the efficiency

Hall said further progress could be forthcoming when new EU legislation, expected over the next year or so, mandated more action to address the problem of campylobacter. He also questioned the efficacy of roast in the bag solutions, given that 60–70% of fresh chicken was sold as portions, rather than whole birds.

The debate, chaired by Food Manufacture’s group editor Mike Stones, also heard from Rod Addy, editor of sister publication Meat Trades Journal​, who also raised concerns about the increasing problem of antibiotic resistance against infections such as campylobacter.

Find out more about how the Bernard Matthews boss recommended the UK tackled the number one cause of food poisoning in our exclusive video interview​, filmed after the Big Video Debate at Foodex. 

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