FSA publishes figures on campylobacter

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published its report into theprevalence of campylobacter in fresh chicken.

The results, which represent 853 samples of chicken, showed that 59% tested positive for campylobacter while the bacteria was detected on the outside of pakaging at a rate of 4%. This echos previous rates found in chicken.

FSA chief executive, Catherine Brown, commented on the results: The chicken supply chain is looking at how interventions such as improved biosecurity on farms, rapid surface chilling, and anti-microbial washes can help reduce campylobacter. So when they take action and invest in interventions designed to make a difference, these survey figures will enable us to see if they really do make an impact.

The low levels of contamination found on packaging, shown in the results released today, potentially indicate the effectiveness of the leak-proof packaging for poultry introduced by most retailers, which helps to reduce risks of cross contamination in consumers kitchens. There is still a lot more to be done by all elements of the supply chain to ensure that consumers can be confident in the food they buy.

The FSA is to carry out further research into the bacteria to give us a clearer picture of the prevalance of campylobacter on raw poultry sold at retail and help us measure the impact of interventions introduced by producers, processers, and retailers to reduce contamination, Brown added.

The British Poultry Council (BPC) responded to the results saying campylobacter reduction was its "top priority".

"The poultry industry has been working closely with the FSA on developing techniques and technologies that will reduce the prevalence. We are confident that a number of emerging technologies will help us take significant steps forward in the near future," The BPC stated.

However, the FSA has come under pressure from various angles to name and shame retailers with high levels of the bacteria. Richard Lloyd, executive director of Consumer watchdog Which?, has said the results show unacceptably high levels of campylobacter and they [the FSA] must now publish the names of the retailers so consumers are aware of the best and worst performing shops.

Members of the poultry industry have already been implicated
in The Guardians expose of food hygiene failings, including Faccenda Foods and 2 Sisters Food Group. Both firms denied claims made against them that poor hygiene in their factories helped the spread of the bacteria.

The FSAs year long survey will conclude in February 2015 and will test 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought in UK retail outlets.

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