Mixed report on chicken bugs

16 August 2001

Mixed report on chicken bugs

By FWi staff

SALMONELLA levels in chickens on shop shelves are at an all-time low, but campylobacter affects half the birds sold, according to government figures.

A survey by the Food Standards Agency published on Thursday (16 August) found salmonella in 5.8% of chicken tested across the UK.

This is well ahead of the food safety watchdogs target to reduce an estimated 20% contamination rate by 50% within five years.

However, the FSA admitted that levels of campylobacter bacteria — the biggest identified cause of food poisoning in the UK — were a concern.

It discovered the bug in 50% of samples tested across the country, including 77% of Northern Ireland samples and 75% from Scotland

The agency said it was not able to currently explain these variations, but stressed that these breakdowns reflect country of purchase not country of origin.

FSA Chairman Sir John Krebs said the news about salmonella was “very good news for consumers, and industry”.

“It shows that the stringent control measures being used by industry are starting to bite in the battle against salmonella.”

He it was vital to ensure that these measures were maintained. “Nobody can afford to be complacent,” he stressed.

Sir John admitted that levels of campylobacter in chickens are “far too high”, partly because not enough is known about the bug.

“The bottom line is that we will not succeed in reducing foodborne illness if we dont tackle campylobacter,” he said.

National Farmers Union deputy president Tim Bennett the industry has “slogged its guts out” to cut levels of salmonella in chicken.

This huge effort had paid off and must be maintained while efforts were redoubled to bring about the same reductions for campylobacter.

The FSA plans to launch its food hygiene campaign later this year which will set the ball rolling on its bid to cut food poisoning cases in the UK.

In the survey carried out between April and June, fresh and frozen, domestic and imported retail chickens were tested for salmonella and campylobacter.

No significant difference between domestically produced and imported chickens was found in the results.

A BBC survey published on Thursday (16 August) said that 69% of fresh chickens on supermarket shelves are infected with campylobacter.


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