Industry needs support on campylobacter, claims AIMS conference speaker

Addressing food hygiene issues, such as campylobacter, and frustrations with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) were just two of the topics discussed at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) annual conference.

The conference, held in Daventry, gathered AIMS members and industry stalwarts for a morning of presentations, including Peter Kendall, chairman at the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Doctor Phil Hadley senior regional manager from Eblex, Dominic Morrey, director of trading at Booker Group, Dr Roland Salmon, chair of the Welsh Food Advisory Committee and board member of the FSA, as well as AIMS director and director of Jack Brand poultry abattoir Alison Brand. The day was concluded by Laura Thomas, barrister and partner at Birketts Solicitors.

In her talk, ‘Managing a Slaughterhouse in the Real World’, Brand expressed frustration with the FSA’s regulatory charging fees and the Acting on Campylobacter Together (ACT) initiative.
Brand referred to campylobacter as “the C word” in her talk and highlighted how the industry needed help to tackle the issue: “We feel this target [to tackle campylobacter] has been put there for us, yet rather than acting with us, we feel we have been left to go and find the answer and we don’t know what the answer is any more than anyone else. I am not a food technologist by any means – I run a factory. Neither am I a scientist.”

However, Dr Salmon said communication between the industry and the FSA was a two-way street and that the industry was “already paying” the extra costs to tackle campylobacter.

“We have made incremental gains in tackling campylobacter but there is no magic bullet,” added Salmon.

In his talk, Salmon highlighted emerging problems facing the whole meat industry – namely hepatitis E in pigs, other E.coli and Filovirus.  

Retailers also came under the spotlight, with Dominic Morrey saying the sector was experiencing a “resurgence of the high street butcher” as people veered away from supermarket shopping.

Morrey described how the middle ground – the big four supermarkets – were struggling with a lack of identity, which opened up the market to butchers and farm shops, “as long as they are well-run and good quality, with good values and sincere”. He added: “If they try to become a halfway house, consumers will lose affinity with them.”

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