The British Poultry Council has strongly defended the poultry sector disputing the claims made in a TV programme earlier this week that organic chicken meat is a major carrier of campylobacter and that the fat content of chicken has increased.

These claims were made in the ITV programme Tonight with Trevor MacDonald shown on Monday.

The BPC points out that the fat content claim was the opposite of the results of independent studies carried out over many years by the Royal Society of Chemistry for published food composition tables, which actually showed levels had fallen.

“These reductions are confirmed by a separate analysis published this year which showed that the most common UK modern breed of chicken has almost half the level of fat of the same breed of 25 years ago.”

Moving onto campylobacter, the programme claimed that organic chickens were a major carrier of campylobacter. It added that campylobacter was the most common cause of food poisoning in people.

“Although the small number of samples tested in the programme were not at all representative of UK organic chicken production, the chicken sector is very aware of the incidence of campylobacter in flocks.” 

BPC highlighted that campylobacter is a ubiquitous bacteria in the natural environment and it is generally acknowledged that birds raised in outdoor systems are more susceptible to campylobacter, due to their proximity to sources of infection. 

While indoor rearing can help reduce the incidence, greater scientific understanding is needed of how the organism gets into flocks.

The British poultry sector is working with the Food Standards Agency, DEFRA, and researchers to identify effective ways to prevent flock infection.

The BPC echoes the advice of the FSA, that proper kitchen hygiene and normal cooking of poultry meat completely removes the risk of infection to humans.