/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Supermarket Campylobacter results under the microscope

As you’ll be aware, we’ve been calling on the Food Standards Agency to publish the data that details the levels of Campylobacter per supermarket. Well, today they’ve done just that.

The FSA has published the results of its findings for the main supermarkets. Unfortunately Asda’s samples tested highest for levels of Campylobacter at 78%. This was followed by the Co-operative Food (73%), Morrisons (69%), Waitrose (69%), Sainsbury’s (69%), Marks and Spencer (67%) and Tesco (64%).  The full table of results is below:

FSA Campylobacter results per supermarket

In my last post a number of you asked what people can do to prevent food poisoning – so we’ve published some cooking with chicken tips on our site.

Others asked just how badly the food poisoning affects individuals. We’ve received thousands of comments on this through our petition and wanted to share some of the experiences people have taken the time to share with us.

Campylobacter case studies

A number of our supporters have really been knocked for six with the bug. Alan feels he’s never fully recovered from the food poisoning:

‘A few years ago I was admitted to hospital with severe Campylobacter and was in hospital for two weeks. I was severely very ill. An experience I do not want repeated. I was quite a stocky person & lost a lot of weight. I never regained the weight.’

Unfortunately Campylobacter hit the whole of Julie’s family:

‘Horrific incident when my young twins, small son and my husband and I all got Campylobacter from chicken cooked by my elderly mother in law.’

And Sandra told us:

‘I ended up in hospital with this as the doctor had to record my details to send to the health board to report my hospitalization. I was admitted for three days and had to go on a drip. I could only eat light meals when I came home and it wasn’t until another two months before I felt okay. If supermarkets aren’t following health rules when it comes to the food standards they should be held accountable for this as people such as the elderly have weak immune systems besides others. They are putting lives at risk.’

We want to see supermarkets not only publishing effective plans that tackle these scandalously high levels but also demonstrate they’re taking real action to make chicken safe. So, will today’s publication of the supermarkets’ levels of Campylobacter affect how and where you shop? And do you think supermarkets and poultry producers are doing enough?

Comments

Indeed. Science gave us antibiotics, which saved lives. Industry used them to improve the growth of animals and to help with the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The danger is that scientists get the blame.

When we buy a chicken, it may be contaminated by other bacteria as well as campylobacter. Campylobacter and its toxins are destroyed by cooking but other bacteria produce heat-stable toxins, which will survive cooking. We know that larger amounts of these toxins can make us very sick but we know little about repeated exposure to smaller amounts of heat-stable toxins. Nevertheless it is well established that our bodies are susceptible to harm by repeated exposure to low levels of harmful substances.

I wonder if those who promote putting chicken in the oven without washing have studied microbial pathogenesis and understand that the pack could contain bacterial toxins that will not be destroyed by cooking.

This conversation is ruining my lunches!

If these heat-stable toxins are on the surface of raw chicken, how can retailers offer us products such as sealed-in-the-bag-oven-ready birds and those bits of raw breast wrapped in bacon?

Is there any evidence that ready-to-cook chicken has not been “cleaned” in the infamous yellow/brown fecal soup?

Sorry Bib1. I have no intention of shocking anyone, but I can tell you that writing about campylobacter is as much as I want to have to do with chicken for the time being. 🙁

I don’t know if chickens are properly cleaned before they reach the supermarket shelves, but I guess we would be looking at much lower campylobacter figures if they were. What other bugs and muck are hidden in our oven-ready double-bagged chicken? Cooking does not magically remove everything that could be harmful to our health.

Washing raw meat has always required care to avoid contamination of food that will no be cooked. I hope that we can look forward to a time when we can safely wash chicken.

Yes I have often wondered about this……but does campylobacter affect turkey also – and have there been any tests carried out – or are these planned for after Christmas?

I hope that Which? will keep up the good work, Anna. It might have been good to know about turkey before Christmas. We also need to know about organically farmed birds, which might be better because of less intensive farming but could be worse because they are not fed antibiotics to increase weight gain like most poultry is. I cannot find any information about what tests are planned in the future.

Not surprisingly it is not just the UK that has a problem with campylobacter.

Maybe we need help from the EU. It would be interesting to know if other MPs and MEPs are concerned about campylobacter.

Excellent sleuthing malcolm. Is the major chain being coy , have they asked you not to mention them?

Sam I looked at your link and the violent red with white figures is quite upsetting when seen from 2ft on a large monitor – roughly 12 sq cm for the largest part.. It may look great on a smartphone though. : )

dieseltaylor, the response I got from the retailer was very helpful. However it was a private exchange for my own reassurance. I will pass it on in confidence to Which? if asked.

The questions I would like followed up is that if this retailer – and presumably others – are doing large-scale tests at independent laboratories, as claimed, are these not valid to the FSA’s investigation? If they are, and are so much larger in scale and giving different results, why is the FSA not using them? That is the implication in what I have been told. But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I may be drawing the wrong conclusion!

The same retailer also says they are in contact with Which? concerning their action plan. If so – and if others are too – I think Which? should say what is developing. I was under the impression – as the introduction says “We want to see supermarkets not only publishing effective plans……..” that Which? was not being given such information. The supermarkets may not see Which? as the primary body to report to but hope they will have a good enough relationship to keep them informed.

Thirty-nine cases of Campylobacteriosis reported in England for the week ending 30th December and 58 the previous week.

Looking at the figures by HA it is interesting to see most cases are individual with occasional 2s and 3 s and a mighty 7 so one hopes that there is research into the clumps to look for common factors.

The food industry has not been very happy about publication of the FSA results on chicken sold by supermarkets. Here is one of the critical articles: http://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Food-Safety/Food-body-s-retail-policy-slammed

I am disappointed when people try to blame consumers for not taking appropriate action to protect themselves from campylobacter when modern farming and processing methods are clearly responsible for the problem. It’s difficult to protect yourself from infection when eating out, even if you are meticulously careful yourself.

This particular criticism emanates from the head of research at Shore Capital, it would appear. “Shore Capital was founded in 1985 and has grown rapidly to become one of London’s leading independent investment businesses. Since inception we have had a close affinity with entrepreneurial individuals and businesses.” Not from the food industry, it would seem.

What is true is the immediate preventive action people should take is to cook chicken properly – as has been the case for many years. I would be wary of eating cooked chicken from dubious outlets.

What I am not sure about is whether the FSA is using all available data to evaluate retailers. I am in favour of publishing data for each major retailer – but it should also include distributors and processors as well,as chicken is widely bought elswhere. And the data should be accurate. I, like others, want to see campylobacter minimised but it does not seem to be an easy problem to solve. Unless someone has a solution not yet made public?

We have been given very little information, Malcolm. We have no idea of how many samples have been tested, but from looking at the FSA figures, it’s evidently not a lot. Clearly we do need to have more data to explore the possibility that less intensive farming methods or processing can significantly decrease contamination.

Unfortunately, we cannot rely on fast food outlets and restaurants to cook poultry adequately and those who are inexperienced or elderly might not be as careful as they need to be.

The campylobacter problem has dragged on for decades and has been the main reason that we have been warned so many times of the danger on undercooked barbecued chicken. Part of the problem is that traditional campylobacter measurements take a couple of days, rapid methods a couple of hours and both must be done in a lab. What we need is inexpensive and reliable biosensors that can be used routinely on the farm, much in the way that a diabetic might check their blood glucose. Various possibilities exist but the food industry will have to put its hand in its pocket to fund research and development.

The FSA have published the number of samples they took on which they based their “league table”. I have been told by one retailer – as I said above – that they have taken twice as many samples in a week as the FSA have in 6 months. It concerns me if all available data is not taken into account.

As you say, the number of samples are quoted in the FSA data, but there is no indication of what these numbers represent. For example, how many samples were taken from each chicken and how many replicate plates were counted? However the figures are arrived at, we are looking at testing less than one chicken per retail outlet.

I can see why the FSA might be reluctant to use data from an independent laboratory when the tests have been commissioned by a retailer. We would probably not trust Which? testing if it was approached by a manufacturer to test the performance of a washing machine. Having said that, perhaps the FSA could coordinate sponsored funding.

Manufacturers commission independent EU laboratories to test their products against EN standards as the means of applying the relevant mark of compliance – such as BSI’s Kitemark. I would expect responsible food retailers to take similar actions to check the quality of their products. Much more comprehensive testing can be done this way. The FSA should keep a policing eye on this as well as doing its own tests, and collating all relevant information. I am not as cynical as some, perhaps!

It depends entirely how independent testing is done. Over the years, Which? has frequently reminded us that they do not accept products for testing but buy them, as you or I would. I can understand why Which? uses this approach and very much support it.

wavechange – You are correct that Which?, when it tests, buys as you and I. However as we both know unlike us it does not use the product beyond the immediate tests and therefore durability/ longevity is not tested. I think it is important to note this important difference.

The trouble is that it is difficult to test some aspects of durability/longevity within a realistic time period if we recognise that most products are on sale for a limited period. It’s easy to determine whether a microwave oven will survive being switched on and off many times but not whether the plastic catch will survive use for 10 years. Perhaps we should debate this further in a relevant Conversation. 🙂

http://www.food.gov.uk/about-us/how-we-work/our-board/board-meetings/2015/010115/board-meeting-agenda-28-january-2015

An abundance of information included on this link. It includes the 17 page Minutes of their November meeting. Nice to see what is going on and the constraints that exist.

I suspect we will read more about Campylobacter in the minutes of the next meeting. Your link led to to fascinating information relating to actions relating to food hygiene in the UK.

Just published (25/2/2016) by the Food Standards Agency are the latest tests on supermarket chicken: http://www.food.gov.uk/science/microbiology/campylobacterevidenceprogramme/retail-survey-year-2
The most important figures are “% skin samples
over 1000 cfu/g campylobacter” since heavily contaminated birds pose the greater risk of cross contamination of other foods and from under-cooking of the meat.

When the previous set of results was published, Morrisons came out badly and it is good to see that the most recent results are much better. This is why it is important to look at the performance over a year, which will also take into account the well established seasonal variation in campylobacter contamination.

There has been a significant improvement since the first test results were published in 2014, showing that improvements can be made if efforts are made, but we must keep up the pressure because all the supermarkets are selling some birds that are heavily contaminated and there is no way of knowing which ones.

Thanks Wavechange. We’ve responded to the FSA’s results today, we think that these levels are still unacceptably high overall, but progress has been made.

Our executive director, Richard Lloyd said:

‘It’s encouraging that retailers have made some progress in reducing campylobacter levels in chicken but levels are still unacceptably high.

‘The progress Morrisons have made to meet the FSA’s target shows that it can be done and other supermarkets should tighten up their controls to ensure they’re reducing levels of this potentially deadly bug.’

Thanks very much, Lauren. I had hoped that Which? would be commenting. What Richard has said is a concise and accurate reflection of our current position.

It is amazing to see the different ways that the same information has been used to convey different messages on the web and I might provide a few links to illustrate this point.

What I am glad to see is that positive comments are now being made about the approach to tackling campylobacter. Samples (100) are, to my mind, small and I hope FSA will find ways to include much larger samples from the retailers independent tests. They are discussing ways of doing so in March. The survey will only begin to make sense after July when a full year’s results are in as there are seasonal factors involved. It may also not be comparable with the previous year’s results because of the way neck skin has been trimmed.
I am still concerned by the differences between retailers. I do wonder why the FSA does not also focus on the relatively few chicken processors from where the retailers will get most of their chickens, and the farmers that supply them. Surely this is where the campylobacter trail all starts?

I am a little shaken that the FSA report feels it unnecessary to mention the use of by chicken farms of antibiotics . The annual figures are due shortly and I think we should be sensible about trading off antibiotic resistance for a family of drugs to reduce the incidence of food poisoning.

Which? needs to provide an overall view to readers.

” However, a breakdown of the data by antibiotic family obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism through a Freedom of Information request revealed the use of fluoroquinolones actually increased by 59% – from 710 kg in 2013 to 1,126 kg in 2014.
The drugs are banned for poultry in the US because their veterinary use is thought to be a major factor behind emerging resistance to antibiotics in human campylobacter infections.
A recent study by the Royal Liverpool University Hospital found nearly 50% of campylobacter cases were resistant to fluoroquinolones, which are important for treating the bug.”

thegrocer.co.uk/buying-and-supplying/food-safety/uk-poultry-sector-under-fire-for-controversial-antibiotic-use/531395.article

The latest figures may be interesting given the teaser by The Grocer
“Poultry industry slashes antibiotic use in half
11 Feb 2016 | By Carina Perkins
BPC members reduced fluoroquinolone antibiotics use by more than 50% in 2015, says the BPC”

Those of an analytical nature may assume that they were using another antibiotic this last year and will subsequently swop back to record another newsworthy drop in a further antibiotic in 2016.

However overall they are claiming a reduction compared to 2014 but as with all things one has to see a year on year on year and also consider other things like the amount of UK chickens slaughtered year on year. There may also be better ways to adminster the antibiotic which means less is required. SO clear as mud currently.

“Antibiotic usage data collected by the British Poultry Council (BPC) for 2015, shows the poultry meat sector has continued to make significant progress. The data collected in 2015 showed a 28% drop in overall usage of antibiotics compared to 2014.”
britishpoultry.org.uk/british-poultry-meat-sector-leads-the-way-in-antibiotic-reduction/

Dieseltaylor – Less use of antibiotics can mean two things. You either use it on fewer occasions (good) or you cut down the amount, which is potentially dangerous because it can select antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That’s why GPs stress the need to take antibiotics regularly and finish the course.

I have not looked into this but I believe that the farmers want to use antibiotics as growth promoters rather than to treat sick chickens. I am happy to be corrected. Chickens can have bowels full of campylobacteria without symptoms in the same way that healthy humans have potentially dangerous bacteria in their bowels.

Many have been concerned for years about antibiotic use in agriculture contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance, though that is only one of the reasons. It’s worth noting that – as far as I am aware – antibiotics are not normally used to treat campylobacter infections but antibiotic resistance can spread to other bacteria that cause human infections.

As I see it the purpose of the FSA report is to provide information about the progress of trying to get rid of highly contaminated chicken from the supermarket shelves.

I believe the use of antibiotics as growth promoters is banned in the EU (and UK). I believe they would need to be prescribed by vets. Perhaps their should be tighter regulation of their use (and their should be in humans too).

That’s my understanding too, Malcolm, but I have been told that there are ways around the restrictions. There should certainly be tighter regulation. There are still people expecting GPs to hand out antibiotics.

Hopefully the EU are getting even more restrictive on the (mis)use of antibiotics in farm animals:

Antibiotics in farm animals: rules get tougher
BEUC.EU
BEUC PRESS STATEMENT – 18.02.2016

Key points:
The European Parliament prohibits the use of antibiotics for healthy farm animals.
MEPs want to ban giving certain antibiotics crucial for human health to food-producing animals.
With antibiotic resistance looming, BEUC congratulates Members of the European Parliament who have echoed its longstanding call for stricter measures.

From Wikipedia:
“European Union
Although the European Union banned the use of antibiotics as growth agent from 2006,[16] its use has not changed much until recently[citation needed]. In Germany, 1,734 tons of antimicrobial agents were used for animals in 2011 compared with 800 tons for humans. On the other hand, Sweden banned their use in 1986 and Denmark started cutting down drastically in 1994, so that its use is now 60% less.[17] In the Netherlands, the use of antibiotics to treat diseases increased after the ban on its use for growth purposes in 2006.[18] In 2011, the EU voted to ban the prophylactic use of antibiotics, alarmed at signs that the overuse of antibiotics is blunting their use for humans.[19]”

I hope that continued pressure will achieve the necessary result but I am not optimistic. Scientists saw the dangers when the use of antibiotics in farming started but in the quest for profit they were ignored.

Here is an article about the failure of the industry to meet agreed targets for campylobacter contamination in slaughtered chicken: http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/campaigns/campylobacter/actnow/act-e-newsletter/the-slaughter-house-target

” However, these have been more difficult to introduce effectively than had been expected and, even where interventions have proven to be effective, they have yet to be introduced to all slaughter houses.>”

Is it time to name and shame?

The statement also says “Following discussion by the FSA Board, it was agreed to roll forward the target date into 2016 when it is expected that it will be met by industry putting in a number of interventions, both on-farm and in processing, to ensure that the highest level of contamination is reduced to the agreed target level.” – See more at: http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/campaigns/campylobacter/actnow/act-e-newsletter/the-slaughter-house-target#sthash.v2dk37JX.dpuf

I have asked from the start why the FSA concentrated testing only on retailers, when the products originate from the chicken processors. It seemed logical to examine the processors and their suppliers – the farmers – to check their procedures, interventions, and outcomes at least as much as the retailers.

It would be interesting to know why the FSA is confident that a large reduction in the most heavily contaminated chicken will be achieved this year.

I think the problem is not so much with the farming industry but more with the market driven price reductions over the years and is at the end of the day consumer driven
In other words it’s not as simple as laying down the law about medication. . .Stop the medication and the whole lot will die all too often and disease will become rampant. . This is why you have not seen change. . Because to date there has been no alternative

It is going to be very difficult to have a reduction in the use of these products without a major shake up and I’d expect a complete change in the methods of rearing chickens
The result of such changes will be a serious increase in production costs. . .
I’d imagine the farmers will be worried as they’d have to change and that means expense but if the expense goes up consumption usually goes down. . .It’s hard investing in a producing a product that is about to take a nose dive in sales

Like many things I’d lay more blame at the door of Gov and the supermarkets firstly for the drive after the war for more and cheaper food then later the drive for endless sales of cheaper food
Look at the facts
Ever larger farms
More and more food for less and less cost and the maths over the last 50 years back this up
Less and less people getting any living off the land and the ones who are still farming are producing multiple times the amounts of food to achieve a reasonable income and future
If one were to compare the normal owner farmers hours to other industries they are paid buttons
So the only ones to reap the benefits of all this are the supermarkets and the consumers

I can assure you that to rear chickens even remotely close to what nature intended but fenced in as such will cost not just a little more but several times more
The breeds will need changing I’d imagine and the amount of feed in for product out will change immensely. .
The current methods have been perfected for several decades and have cut down as far as possible any energy losses either from the mechanical/housing/etc process but more so the birds. . Less movement = more growth

We have layers. . .and we use the roosters when young for eating
We dont force them with artificial light so they only lay about 8 months of the year
We use the young roosters for meat
The cost of both the eggs and meat is several if not many times the cost of supermarket eggs/chicken
Having our own eggs is far from a cost saving exercise

Now I’m no vet or chemist but I’ve lived in the country proper most of my life and I’ve done all the things there is to do especially in older methods which my grandparents operated with. . .
That is how chickens were reared without medication and that is about the only way it will work
I’ll bet I can sit down and hand milk a cow to this day. . or goat as we had goats in later years
I can “dispatch” a chicken and have it ready and cleaned in about 15 minutes so I have an inside track on these subjects
I still grow a few things although this is not profitable either. .
It is simply cheaper to buy the stuff as diy it. . .That is how efficient farming has become
The only reason we grow our own is because “it is better” it is nicer. . It is tastier

In my eye’s there is no half way house to get away from medicating the birds. . . You either have cheap meat with medicating or you have expensive meat without. . . Any thoughts of some utopia are going to be hard if not impossible to achieve

Should such changes come about I’ll lay money on that the price of chicken will sky rocket and for that reason I dont think that any significant changes will ever happen
If the changes do happen there may be a silver lining to the cloud in that perhaps more folk might again make money form their land. . .

Apologies DK, I realise that the current problems are at least partly due to intensive farming and processing and there has been a lot of pressure on the farmers. It is well known that farmers are underpaid for their milk and even those supermarkets that claim to be helping by paying the farmers more are not exactly being generous.

When I was a lad, chicken was expensive but now it is cheap meat. Many of us eat far more meat than is needed for a healthy diet and I believe that we must move to less intensive farming and processing so that chickens are properly cleaned before packaging.

Chicken production is not the only area where costs have fallen. In other Convos we have criticised the white goods industry for selling third rate washing machines that are unlikely to last long and may not be economically repairable.

No apologies needed Wave, , I see and kinda expected from your other previous comments in the past that you understand more than just the cost V output and end product costs but even that we almost all eat way too much meat and too much dairy
You are a pretty clued up about many things and probably a more practical person than you may like to let on..
Yes, , we kinda need a little meat and dairy but we love it and it’s yet another want rather than a need
I think to get rid of the diseases we first would need to start at the production/growing end of things. . .I am not entirely sure that simple cleaning of the birds will turn out the wanted results as such

Your pretty good on these tiny living entities and know little to nothing about them but I do know that our food production systems and our lifestyles are not sustainable or even close to sustainable without endless medication and of course oil,, oil and more oil for not only fuel use but the many other things made from it that we could not exist without

We live a very short time
During that time we seem to think that what we see is the norm and the way it always was and always will be. . .
There will be endless improvements because all we have seen is improvements for the whole of the living people here today
We are not paying attention to what the experts are telling us
My son in law in Ontario has been telling us that it was 17c just the other day and although that was a high this trend is ongoing. . . This is unheard of there
We have had a very mild winter. The warmest or record we are told just as the amount of rain had been bewildering yet because most of us live in towns we only worry about the flooding
We dont worry about food production or the effects of strange weather on food production
We are told about these antibiotics but we dont listen
We are spoiled
I have a bad feeling that some day we will wish we had listened

Today we are more concerned about the in/out referendum than the many much more important things

Malcolm wrote: “I have asked from the start why the FSA concentrated testing only on retailers, when the products originate from the chicken processors. It seemed logical to examine the processors and their suppliers – the farmers – to check their procedures, interventions, and outcomes at least as much as the retailers.”

I agree. At the start of our discussions I thought that it was unfair to target the retailers rather than looking at the processors and their suppliers. I have changed my view and recognise that the retailer has the direct responsibility for selling food that is wholesome and safe. In the same way, retailers rather than manufacturers are responsible to the public for the goods they sell. A benefit of focusing on retailers is that it is them rather than the processor or farmer that the public can relate to.

I believe that chicken pieces and other poultry should be looked at, not just whole chicken. I am also concerned that fast food outlets, restaurants and pubs have not received attention.

Good man Wave
It is the retailers who we buy the things from. . .
No different to Curry’s trying to pass everyone on to the manufacturers. . .
You have no deal with the manufacturers you have a deal with the retailers
It is also the retailers who drive the prices down and that has the knock on effect on how the food is produced. . . This relentless pressure on processors and growers really is akin to cruel

Should things change and the price of some food rise considerably I have no doubt that a new Which topic would start and there would be 1000s of posts within days complaining so whilst it would be nice to clean things up I feel it’ll have to stop at the processors as that is where the main problem exists it seems and would I presume not alter prices by any large amount
Any prevention prior to that point will cause serious cost rises

The source of campylobacter is with the producers – chicken farmers -, the subsequent hygiene is with the processors and the responsibility for the final product lies with the retailers who source what they sell. So all are inextricably involved. I am not, however, looking to apportion blame. I am concerned with finding methods that will minimise campylobacter. So it seems logical to look at the farmers and the processors practices to see where the best interventions are to be found and to enforce those throughout all producers. That is why I wonder how much attention the FSA test and monitor that part of the chain, as well as the retail outlets.

And have you any useful suggestions Malcolm as how to reduce or stop the problem without sending the costs through the roof. .and even bringing the whole thing to it’s knees

DK – If you have not seen this undercover filming in a chicken processing plant, have a look at the video in this Guardian article: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/27/dirty-chicken-scandal-campylobacter-eight-out-10-uk-birds-supermarkets-asda It’s fairly obvious that even uncontaminated birds can get covered in faeces containing campylobacter. Most of our retailers use the the two main processing companies, so improvements in standards of processing should mean overall lower contamination of birds on sale.

DeeKay, the problem has no doubt been with us for ever, and we have dealt with it by proper cooking and hygiene. The “interventions” appear to be beginning to reduce the problem and the FSA seem hopeful that this year will see their target being met. However I see no signs that anyone will eradicate campylobacter as it is present in the environment where chickens are. So I assume good kitchen practise will still have to be observed, or avoid chicken

When we all want lots of nice food, but at a price most want to pay, then inevitably producers will try to fulfill that need whether they are in the UK or overseas – like eggs, milk, chicken. grains and so on. There is a world market and if our producers cannot compete then it will come from those who can. I do not think this is good; I’d like to see much of our food home produced. So do we abandon free trade and subsidise our home producers? With the international consequences – it is a two-way trade.

I’d like to see meat still consumed but in smaller portions and with more emphasis on cereals and vegetable (they make more efficient use of resources). Price is one way of encouraging this, but then we would hear that only the better off could afford the nicer diet.

Malcolm and Wave, , There is not much will surprise me

My wife as she left school worked for a time in a poultry processing plant now one of the largest in the UK and you will all have eaten poultry from that plant
She could not stick it as we would say here so yes I am aware, , more than aware
That plant now though is perhaps as good as it gets but back then the stories were terrible
Please search BBC iplayer for “the chicken people”, , I very much doubt you’ll find a better plant
That doesnt mean its perfect or could not be improved but it may be as good as it gets
Still that was the same company some years ago my wife who was also reared in the country could not work in

Personally when I returned home here I had no work and took a temporary job at the refitting of a local slaughterhouse as I was good with oxy/acet and fridge pipework is often copper welded and silver soldered both of which I done since before I was in my teens. . .It was only a few weeks but I got the inside view and beef or lamb was no better than poultry. . It just so happens that poultry is a much more delicate product when it comes to disease

I think my last post will point out that this has nothing to do with free trade and the farmers are not having to compete but are simple fulfilling a contract and everything is being dictated to them so thoughts or comments about free trade and such are right off the plot
There is no other foodstuff more controlled by the industry and supermarkets than poultry

I do not want to be in the hot seat guys but I will not see bad info when I know different

The campylobacter problem has indeed been with us for a long time. I became aware of the hazards of chicken around the time I started working with bacteria in 1973, as a novice research student. Since then I have been very wary of barbecues, where there is plenty of opportunity for cross-contamination and undercooked meat, and I have been careful to avoid barbecued chicken.

Despite advances in our awareness of the problem and possible ways to address it, the number of cases has risen, not fallen, and eventually the Food Standards Agency started warning us of the danger of washing chicken. I suspect that the way forward will be to introduce standards laying down the maximum acceptable average contamination level for chicken, above which chicken can only be sold unless it has been cooked . No one ‘intervention’ will tackle the campylobacter problem, but used in combination they could. The alternative is to follow the US and treat carcases with chlorine or peroxyacetic acid. Hopefully that can be avoided.

DK – I very much hope that the Guardian film is highly unrepresentative, but it does show what can happen in a poorly managed processing plant. I look forward to watching the programme on iPlayer. In the summer I was introduced to a farmer who really impressed me with his awareness of the campylobacter problem and opportunities for tackling it. His chickens were layers rather than for meat and he said he was coping better than most with the pressures to cut prices.

I don’t know how we will address the campylobacter problem but I am now confident that the pressure should be on the retailers to make sure that their food is wholesome and safe.

I think if you will take the time to watch the chicken people you’ll see that if nothing else we here are at the very minimum making a concerted effort
I was impressed and I live close by all this

I do not know any poultry farmer locally who is not bonkers about hygiene right from the very gate/entrance to their premises to the poultry houses

I would not be allowed in, , it is that simple and not because a could see and tell but because they would be taking a chance on infection by doing so
My very brother in law or the wife’s brother in law has several large houses and we’ve never seen through the door unless when the houses are being cleaned
He is as honest and caring about his job as you possibly were about yours

I have a fair idea Wave your clued in on these little micro whatsits but whilst there are problems within the industry I’d think, , the industry is doing more than you’d perhaps imagine

If I was going on your link I would not eat chicken, ,it would be that simple but I know where my chicken comes from. . .About 8 and 1/2 miles down the road and that is where we buy it, , right at the factory shop in Ballymena
The plant in the programme is mostly the Dungannon plant but the Ballymena one is equally as good and I have little doubt about the quality of what I’m eating
I am equally confident in the factory chicken as I would be of our own home grown and killed stuff
The factory chicken may be even better as far as the plant conditions and cleanliness is concerned over any efforts I could make at home
Our home grown birds just have the benefit of being out and out free range and your never going to beat that plus having cleaned themselves in soil as they love to do and wont have the same inherent problems as mass reared birds may have but the killing and processing will never match the factory no odds how many times I wash my hands or how good I am at opening the bird up
I have to wash the birds down also . . I’m not perfect but I’m not about to throw the thing away

The machinery is to me simply amazing how they can get machines to do what they do. . . If your into engineering its interesting

As to free trade there is no mention as to where these offending birds originate from as best I know, , just that we have to do more but I am suspicious about who exactly should do more and where are these business’s
The numbers are not good but are all the effected chickens of UK origin??

Have a look at the BBC programme and see if what you see pleases you or at minimum lifts you a little on poultry

When there is a problem whether it be chicken or horse meat as was recently it is seldom the whole industry is to blame but a minority who are profiteering from their actions
It should be the profiteers who get the whip and those who are making a good effort should be allowed to get on with the good work
I am a little like that with the car thing also because many of us knew who for want of better words “had to be at their work” whilst others had behaved rather better but sometimes one cannot tell the whole story. . . It would not be fair to ask so at some point one has to withdraw and leave it to history. .

Yes I’d like to see less micro whatsits in chicken just the same as everyone but there’s no use in blaming those who dont deserve blame
I’ll stand up for the farmers because the ones I know around here are good. .

The programmes are no longer available, but I expect that they will be shown again.

I’m quite prepared to believe that some processing plants are better run than others, in the same way. Nevertheless, there are contaminated chickens on sale in all of the supermarkets and a very large number of people becoming sick, so something is wrong.