March 2009 will see the publication of a Food Standards Agency report assessing whether the broiler industry is on track to meet the Agency’s own target in reducing the incidence of campylobacter in UK-produced retail chickens.

“The Agency has a target of halving the number of chickens in retail chicken on sale by 2010,” said FSA chief scientist Andrew Wadge at the recent Egg and Poultry Industry Conference in Warwickshire.

To help achieve this, the FSA has since 2004 being employing its “Cleaner farms, better flocks” poster and leaflet campaign, as well as having one-to-one meetings with the key processors. Parallel to this, the FSA it is currently reviewing possible on-farm interventions to cut incidence.

“Thinning is a key area and if we focused solely as a food safety issue, then the thinning process is when flocks are very vulnerable to breaches in biosecurity,” he said.

But it’s not just on-farm. FSA has also been looking at the processing side and has identified defeathering as a critical process that’s causing cross-contamination between camplylobacter positive and negative birds. “Work has shown that with the use of steam, we can effectively reduce contamination by 90%, without adversely affecting appearance of birds.”

However, Mr Wadge highlighted that even with this evidence, no processor had implemented it. The next stage is to question why this is the case and discuss with industry what incentives that could be offered to encourage uptake.