30 April 1998
Poultry industry urged to stamp out salmonella

By FWi staff

JEFF Rooker, food safety minister, yesterday chastised the poultry industry for not doing enough to stamp out salmonella in chickens.

Speaking at the British Poultry Meat Federations annual lunch in London yesterday, Mr Rooker said although levels of salmonella had been reduced, it was not good enough.

“I am pleased to hear that levels of salmonella in broiler flocks has been reduced, perhaps to as low as 10% in some cases,” Mr Rooker said.

“But that is not enough. The issue continues to be of public concern. It will be in the industrys interests to tackle the matter head on.

“The Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food sees no reason in principle why the prevalence of salmonella contamination in chickens on retail sale should not be reduced to single figures – on the basis of existing technology.

Mr Rooker said there was already a structured programme to tackle hygiene standards in poultry slaughterhouses, and that Government would now focus on salmonella on farms.

The Commons agriculture select committees food safety report, which was released yesterday, praised retailers for working with their poultry suppliers to reduce the level of salmonella in chickens from 40% in 1995 to just over 10% today.

“Despite these encouraging developments, there is a long way to go before the British poultry supply chain can emulate its Norwegian and Swedish counterparts in virtually eliminating salmonella,” the report said.

Mr Rooker also spoke of the use of antibiotics in poultry farming. There are concerns that certain strains of salmonella and other food bugs are becoming resistant to antibiotics – prompting yesterdays call from the Commons committee to ban the use of antibiotics as growth-promoters in farming.

Mr Rooker said the Veterinary Medicines Directorate has extended its statutory monitoring programme for veterinary residues to cover poultry. All results will be published, together with the brand names for those above acceptable levels. All positive results will be followed up with the farmer and his veterinary adviser.

He said the Department of Health would conduct a survey of salmonella in UK-produced chickens at retail level later this year.

The Government also intends to ask the European Commission to review the use of poultry and feather waste in poultry feed throughout the Community. This decision follows a recommendation by SEAC – the Governments advisory body on BSE – that same-species feeding may create the potential to spread disease.