Consumers urged to ditch supermarket chicken after campylobacter results

A former government advisor and leading food expert has called for a boycott on supermarket chicken following yesterday’s campylobacter results.

Writing on The Guardian website, Professor Tim Lang called for the British public to boycott supermarket chicken products: “Dear British public, be outraged, act, withhold your money until you can have confidence in what you consume. This may not be orthodox public health strategy but it is definitely what history shows works when standards are as dire as these results show them to be,” he stated.

Lang was a former expert advisor to the health and environment department until 2011 and was instrumental in the set-up of the Food Standards Agency (FSA). His comments follow yesterday’s revelation by the FSA that 70% of supermarket chickens tested positive for the bug.

Lang said the FSA results were as bad as the salmonella scandal and BSE in cattle: “What these results show is that they have slipped backwards again: the rate of campylobacter is even higher than the rate of salmonella in poultry was in the 1980s; this is dreadful. Salmonella has come down and our problem now is campylobacter; but one form of bad news fading only to be replaced by new bad news is hardly progress,” Lang stated.

However, the British Poultry Council refuted Lang’s comments in a statement: “There is absolutely no reason for anyone to stop buying British poultry. All poultry is safe to eat. Millions of consumers enjoy poultry every day as they recognise it is a safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable quality meat.

“Consumers are able to make an informed choice, and they have consistently made poultry their favourite meat – in the UK almost as much poultry is consumed as beef, pork and lamb combined.

“The industry is working hard to tackle the bacterium before it reaches consumers, but consumers also have an important role to play as proper cooking kills campylobacter.”

Asda came out worst of all the retailers, with 78% of its raw chicken products testing positive for campylobacter. Asda said it was disappointed at the results and stressed it was “working hard” to find a solution.


The supermarket’s chicken supplier Faccenda Foods said reducing campylobacter had always been a “top priority” for the company and iit had introduced innovative technology, 'SonoSteam', which could potentially kill 90% of the bacteria: “The technology kills campylobacter and other micro-organisms on the skin of chickens through the simultaneous application of both steam and ultrasound. The steam kills the micro-organisms and the ultrasound optimises the effect, so the process time required is only 1.5 seconds. We are now installing the equipment in our primary processing factory in Brackley and will be starting full-scale in-line operational trials in December. If, as suspected, these prove successful, then we have committed to spending £1m on this new technology. The investment will ensure that every single chicken we process passes through Sonosteam to minimise the risk of campylobacter.”

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