Retailers and consumers must share the cost of campylobacter reduction with industry, now that effective measures have been established in the slaughterhouse, according to a Bernard Matthews director.
Jeremy Hall, group technical director for the firm, said two processing interventions on kill lines had proved most effective in reducing campylobacter on fresh poultry.
The first was SonoSteam, a machine which uses sonar to open the pores of a bird before blasting with steam. The second was so-called rapid surface chilling, which flash freezes the skin of birds while keeping the meat above -2C.
“In the UK we have done a lot of work trying to remove on-farm contamination – it is proving very problematic – especially in the summer months.”
Preventing thinning (in broilers) would only go so far, and may prove entirely ineffective in warmer weather, he added.
Bernard Matthews has undertaken commercial trials with a rapid surface chilling system, and latest results suggest a reduction of between 1.5 and 2.1 logs.
Mr Hall said the process left so few birds with contamination above 1000/g cfu of campylobacter the company was hopeful it could meet its targets for reduction.
But the intervention added expense that could not be borne by the processor alone.
“This process looks like it will cost between 3p-6p a bird, which on the retail price of £4-£5 a bird seems a small cost. But it is too much for the producing packhouse to absorb from such small margins.”
He suggested if consumers were willing to pay up to a £1 premium for “roast in the bag” whole birds, which allow the cooking of poultry without touching it raw, a few extra pence per bird for kill line interventions should not be considered a problem.
Mr Hall, who was speaking at the Turkey Science and Production Conference, recommended such interventions should be installed in slaughterhouses as soon as possible, to mitigate the risk to human health.
“We’ve got to concentrate on factory interventions as they can deliver results and give academics time to produce other strategies.”