A meeting of experts in London last week attempted to indentify new methods to tackle the virulent poultry bacterium campylobacter which causes illness in humans, and has been shown to affect 75% of Britain’s poultry flock.
A recent study by the Food Standards Agency found 65% of 3000 samples of chicken bought in the UK was infected with the bacterium, which causes about 300,000 cases of illness in people across England and Wales every year.
“Tackling the problem of campylobacter in UK chicken is a key food safety priority over the next five years,” said Dr Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the FSA.
“This conference has been organised to see what we can learn from other countries.”
A report published by the European Food Safety Authority in mid-March found more than 70% of chicken across the EU was infected with the bacterium.
The report also found that, in the UK, 75% of live poultry arriving at slaughterhouses was infected.
Dr Wadge said there were various ways to bring down the bacteria count in chickens such as using anti-microbial washes, steam treatment and freezing.
“The challenge in the UK is to identify which of these could be used and what would be acceptable to UK consumers,” he said.