Co-op tackles bacteria with new roast-in-the-bag initiative

The Co-operative has announced plans to change to ‘roast-in-the-bag’ packaging for all of its whole chickens to reduce the instances of campylobacter.

The retailer said it made the move in response to consumer demand as the ‘roast-in-the-bag’ provides “extra reassurance to consumers that they can prepare roast chicken safely in their own home”.

Steve Murrells, retail chief executive, The Co-operative Group, said: “I am proud that The Co-operative Food will be the first UK retailer to take this step, which underlines our commitment to customer convenience and food safety. Shoppers have told us it will make cooking easier because the chicken requires no preparation and can be placed straight in the oven, making it convenient for time-pressed families. Importantly, the new packaging offers a clear food safety advantage.

“Those customers who want to season or flavour their chicken can still do so, but they should ensure they follow good kitchen hygiene and avoid washing chicken.”

The packaging, due to come in by the end of January 2015, was welcomed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which launched a campaign earlier this year to urge people not to wash their chicken prior to cooking.

“The FSA welcomes The Co-op’s introduction of ‘roast-in-the-bag’ packaging for its chickens. We are looking to retailers and their suppliers to introduce a range of actions to help reduce the risks to customers from potentially harmful food bugs, especially campylobacter, which is currently the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK. ‘Roast-in-the-bag’ packaging is one initiative that can help consumers avoid handling raw meat and reduce possible cross-contamination in the kitchen. We hope to see more action like this from retailers to help tackle the problem of campylobacter,” said Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA.

Campylobacter has been a hot topic in the national newspapers this week, as it was claimed around half of all chicken sold in supermarkets is contaminated with the bacteria. However, Andrew Large, CEO at the British Poultry Council (BPC) reported in Meat Trades Journal’s sister publication The Grocer that such articles could be misleading.

“As the data is neither comprehensive nor statistically robust, it will not be useful for consumers and risks being misleading.

“Consumers have a key role to play, as good kitchen hygiene will remain a cornerstone of preventing foodborne illness,” Large said.

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