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More should be done to stop Campylobacter

Chicken and Campylobacter

Food experts say that freezing chicken could reduce the risks of the potentially lethal Campylobacter bug – but shouldn’t the responsibility start with the poultry producers and supermarkets?

News of tackling Campylobacter levels in chicken has hit the headlines– in fact you’ll see our response on the front pages of two newspapers today.

This is because a microbiologist from Public Health England has said that freezing chickens that are found to be carrying the bacteria can reduce the level of contamination by up to 90%.

We think it’s a complete cop out to try to put responsibility on consumers to have to clean up poor practices caused earlier in the food supply chain. The Food Standards Agency (FSA), retailers and poultry producers need to make lowering Campylobacter levels a much greater priority. The poultry industry must also clean up its act and be more accountable and transparent.

Campylobacter levels per supermarket

Earlier this month we called on the FSA to publish the result of how the supermarkets performed in terms of the levels of Campylobacter in the chicken they sell. In this tweet, the FSA committed to publishing these results any day now:

We’re continuing to press the FSA for this data as we know it’s an issue you feel strongly about. Wavechange told us:

‘In the future it may be possible to overcome the problem by vaccinating chickens but in the meantime there is a lot that could be done to clean up the processing of poultry’

And Eleanor has shared her experience of contracting the bug:

‘I’ve just recovered from Campylobacter, but as a retired Biomedical Scientist I knew both the symptoms and the origin. I visited my GP, just to have the illness notified, as I waited until I was symptom free before I went. I have always been paranoid about chicken and if I could find someplace that sells polythene gloves, I would wear them when handling chicken.’

Around 60,000 people in the UK are hospitalised or in need or medical attention as a result of Campylobacter infections. Have you experienced the bug from food poisoning?

What would you like the supermarkets and food regulators to be doing to tackle the issue?

Comments
Member

Bearing in mind the reaction to Edwina Currie’s warning about salmonella in eggs in 1988, I wonder if it is a good idea to release information that could be used by the press to help panic the public. On the other hand, if it means that action is taken to deal with the problem, public concern may be what is needed.

It is certainly not acceptable that the problem of campylobacter is sufficiently bad for the Food Standards Agency to have warned us not to wash chicken. The industry must clean up its act.

I was going to eat chicken this evening, for the first time since we last discussed the problem. I have lost my appetite now.

Member
Blu Skydive says:
19 November 2014

I had a bout of Campylobacter a couple of years ago after getting lunch forms market street stall.
The initial fever and aches were a proverbial walk in the park in comparison to what was to be a week of serious bed-ridden contemplation of investing in Pampers.

Not even being able to make it to the GP, and as she was so entertained by my rushing back and forth to the toilet, my wife was tasked with delivering samples to Doc.
Rest, a course of antibiotics and sudocream for the “affected area” were enough to get me over it but after reading quite deeply into the causes, the general consensus was that undercooked meat was the primary culprit.

I’m not sure that supermarkets can do too much to alleviate the problem and it should be down to the consumer to ensure that meat is thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Personally, I’ll never eat from a market stall again but have no issues with supermarkets.

Member

Let us see if there are any differences between the supermarkets. Hopefully the survey will be comprehensive. I enjoyed roast chicken last night and hope to continue to do so. But is there a best place to buy one? Have they also included KFC, MacDonalds and the like?

Member

So 1 in a thousand people were “hospitalised or in need or medical attention as a result of Campylobacter infections.”

I am just curious how this compares
with other countries,
other sources of food /stomach based hospitalisations /attention
how far does society go in expense to save those who cook poorly
and ultimately can it never realistically be eradicated

Member

A substantial number of birds carry campylobacter in their bowels without showing signs of illness. It has been suggested that this problem is largely due to poor animal husbandry including the fact that so many birds are confined in a small space. When these birds are eviscerated, the carcasses of birds that were free from campylobacter becomes contaminated with bacteria from the bowels of birds ones that carry campylobacter.

The chicken sitting on the supermarket shelf could effectively be marinaded in chicken faeces and not washed throughly before sale. In some countries, poultry carcasses are washed in bleach and recently it has been proposed that steam or blast-freezing could help control the problem. My view is that we should be looking hard at improving husbandry and how carcasses are processed in abattoirs before going down these routes.

The risks of undercooking meat are well known, and so is the danger of cross contamination of cooked food, but the campylobacter problem is more serious because of the higher level of contamination than seen with other raw meat.

Member

My goodness. The photo in Sam’s introduction has changed from a few hens in a green field to something more sinister.

Member

hehe thanks – that’s what we were going for 🙂

Member

I am being asked by Which? to sign a petition for supermarkets to act on campylobactor:

…”Today, we’re calling on the supermarkets, the Food Standards Agency and the chicken processing industry to:
Immediately set out the action they will take to bring Campylobacter under control.
Make public the results of campylobacter testing.”

I am totally in favour, of course, of taking action. However, we are told that FSA are publishing this month the first results of “how supermarkets performed” and the FSA website states:

“The poultry supply industry needs to make some significant changes but producers, processors, caterers and retailers have all committed to their part in the fight against campylobacter. Consumers will be able to be the judges of any progress, or lack of progress, that they make.

On a quarterly basis over the next year, the FSA will release the results of tests carried out on about 1,000 samples of chicken being sold by UK retailers. In 2015, we will publish a statistical analysis of the first full-year survey. The information published for each sample will include details about where the chicken was bought, the abattoir that processed it, whether or not the sample contained campylobacter and if so, how heavily it was contaminated.

Everyone is working hard to solve this:”

So if this is all in hand, why do we need a petition?