FSA backs down from campylobacter name and shame

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has done a U-turn over naming and shaming retailers and processors using results from a major campylobacter survey.

Campylobacter in supermarket chicken is a hot topic, after a Guardian investigation made allegations of regular hygiene breaches by major retailer suppliers 2 Sisters and Faccenda. However, in a board meeting on 23 July, the FSA withdrew from its plans to publish quarterly results, saying that data could be misinterpreted if a full year’s sampling is not complete.

The FSA said: “The FSA is committed to publishing the full results from its survey of campylobacter on shop-bought chickens, including names of retailers and processors. However, quarterly results cannot be interpreted in a meaningful way, so breaking results down by retailer and processor at this stage could mislead consumers.

“The FSA board agreed with this position, but called for the final results to be delivered sooner than previously planned. The FSA is now considering how to revise the survey sampling so that full results can be delivered more quickly. The first quarterly results will be released as planned, without company names, in the next few weeks.”

The agency has been attacked from a number of angles for sitting on the data, but the British Poultry Council supported the FSA’s decision. A spokesperson said: “We understand the need to publish this data, but what gets published needs to be robust and statistically reliable. We believe the FSA has made the right decision.”

The decision coincides with a Guardian investigation, which saw a whistleblower apparently presenting evidence of major poultry suppliers breaching practice designed to prevent campylobacter contamination. Faccenda and 2 Sisters, who supply Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, among others, have been accused of poor practice, but deny the allegations of regularly ignoring biosecurity rules.

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