Which? takes further action on campylobacter

Consumer watchdog Which? has re-energised it’s campylobacter campaign with a written letter to seven major supermarkets asking them to publicise the action they are taking against “scandalously” high levels of the bug in retail chicken.

Which? launched its Make Chicken Safe campaign in August 2014, putting pressure on supermarkets to bring the levels of campylobacter under control. Its online petition has also received almost 30,000 signatures.

In November 2014 the Food Standards Agency (FSA) revealed that 70% of all retailed raw chicken contained campylobacter, with none of Britain’s supermarkets meeting end-of-line production targets.

In the letter to supermarkets, Which? chief executive, Richard Lloyd said: “It is now almost six weeks since the Food Standards Agency released data showing scandalously high levels of campylobacter in chicken. Consumers need reassurance that supermarkets are taking this seriously and doing all they can to address the problem.”

Some retailers are working with suppliers to reduce levels of campylobacter, including Asda – which came out worst in the FSA’s ‘name and shame’ results – and its supplier Faccenda Foods, which is implementing innovative SonoSteam technology that proved it could kill the bug during trials.

However, Lloyd said in his letter that more needed to be done: “While we welcome the progress made so far, we urge you to take a more visible and coordinated industry-wide approach so that consumers can be confident that everything possible is being done to tackle this potentially fatal bug. We have previously been in touch with your teams and are calling for every major supermarket to publish a plan of action by the end of January and to make this publicly available and published on your website, with a timeframe for taking action.

“The plan should be an integrated programme of both immediate and planned interventions along the food chain (from incentivising farmers to improve controls through to use of blast surface chilling, for example) targeted at reducing levels of campylobacter as quickly as feasible.”

Writing in November, Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said the industry was working hard to reduce levels: “Today’s figures are an important reminder that we have not yet found a way to prevent the presence of campylobacter in raw chicken, and supermarkets are working even harder to find solutions to help consumers, such as leak-proof packaging for all raw chicken and new roast-in-the-bag products – this is our top priority for food safety. Retailers, farmers and producers have been working with the FSA and Defra for many years as part of the joint government and industry campylobacter working group and millions have been invested into researching solutions for eradicating the bacteria.”

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