/ Food & Drink

Update: supermarkets must step up to the plate

Make chicken safe logo

Results are in and it would appear that, while some progress has been made, you are still at risk from Campylobacter food poisoning from supermarket chicken.

It’s coming up to Christmas and the not-so-subtle hints have been coming in thick and fast that I need some practice before the big day. I had it all planned out. Rosemary, lemon, one pot and one chicken – this Sunday, Jamie Oliver was going to guide me through a simple roast with a zesty twist.

So you can understand my disappointment when the latest Food Standards Agency (FSA) results on Campylobacter contamination came in today

Why does this matter?

Three in four chickens sold in supermarkets are still contaminated with the potentially lethal superbug.

Morrisons has topped the list with the highest levels of contamination, followed closely by consistently poor performer Asda.

Along with 34,000 supporters, Which? has called on all major UK supermarkets to publish CEO-endorsed farm-to-fork action plans to tackle Campylobacter. And since then, supermarkets have been given time to trial interventions and change processes to bring levels down.

But it hasn’t been good enough.

Cleaning up their acts

These results were the first test of the industry’s promises to improve levels but only two retailers have met the FSA’s target to reduce the highest levels of contamination to 7%.

More shockingly, the results of three retailers have worsened since the first survey.

But are we really surprised? Last month, Public Health England reported that the number of people infected by Campylobacter in England and Wales is rising.

So if supermarkets and suppliers have really been doing all they can, why is there not consistent improvement across the board?

This isn’t about which supermarket can top the leaderboard. This is about cleaning up their shelves and keeping their customers safe.

What’s next?

The FSA’s results prove that it is possible to meet their target and make chicken safer.

Some retailers have significantly reduced levels of Campylobacter, so the pressure is on the others to explain why they have missed these jointly agreed targets.

Would you expect more from your supermarket?

If this news hasn’t completely put you off chicken, here’s Jamie’s roast dinner recipe, and take a look at our tips on how to cook chicken safely.

But it might be worth checking out the FSA’s results before heading to the shops…!

Update: 14 March 2017

New figures from the Food Standard Agency (FSA) show a 17% decline in the number of lab reports of Campylobacter in supermarket chickens in 2016.

As part of an ongoing survey into the food-poisoning bug, a total of 1,492 fresh, shop-bought whole chickens were tested across supermarkets and other outlets, such as local butchers, between August and December 2016.

Overall, 7% of chickens tested positive within the highest band of contamination, down from 12% for the same period in 2015 and 20% in 2014.

Of the nine major retailers included in the survey, Sainsbury’s ranked the supermarket least likely to have contaminated chickens at the highest level, with 2.6% of its chicken samples testing positive for Campylobacter.

Alex Neill, our managing director of home services, said: ‘It is encouraging to see that overall levels of campylobacter in chickens are falling and that major retailers are meeting the FSA’s target.

‘However, there is no room for complacency, as the survey shows that over half of chickens are contaminated and that this can vary greatly depending on where consumers shop.’

Comments

One problem with intensive farming is akin to the conversation on domestic appliances – some want low prices but don’t want the penalties that go with them. I will pay more for meat (and eggs) that has been produced in a kinder way (although killing an animal for our benefit may not be regarded as particularly kind). If that means I can afford less meat then that is not a bad penalty – smaller portions, more vegetables, may be a better option anyway.

Whilst we might influence what goes on in the UK, the places overseas that export vast quantities of chicken to us, and the caterers, may not see it the same way.

There are two main types of intensive poultry farming – one for eggs and the other for the table. Both, in their worst forms, can seem very unpleasant but, as Ian says above, when carried out correctly with due care and attention to hygiene and cleanliness, both types can be acceptable albeit unappealing to many.

I should like to repeat something I posted on one of the many previous Conversations on this topic [“Making chicken safe – what needs to be done” – 13/05/15] :

“It’s some time since I last saw inside a battery house. It was for egg-laying hens, not broiler chickens bred for meat, but the hens were not standing in their own excrement. The cages were made of wire mesh on all sides including the floor, which meant that the birds had nothing solid to stand on and their clawed feet had to rest on the mesh. Underneath the floor was a sloping metal tray that collected the droppings. This was scraped periodically. Eggs rolled forward into a channel. Food and water were provided in a tray at the front of the cage. In my view it is a most unpleasant form of animal husbandry. Although for home consumption sales of eggs from battery-caged hens have been overtaken by sales of barn eggs or free-range eggs, eggs produced for commmercial use in manufacturing are probably still largely derived from battery conditions.

“When it comes to broiler chickens, which is what this Conversation is about, I think battery-rearing [i.e. in cages] is unusual. The [rearing] process is nevertheless extremely intensive with very large numbers of birds, of both sexes, raised in large sheds to the age of five to seven weeks before slaughter. Due to the intensive conditions and rapid-growth objective of their husbandry, the birds are susceptible to many serious welfare concerns and distressing medical conditions that will not get treated before slaughter. The stocking density can be unbelievably high, and the heat and general atmosphere border on the intolerable. Faecal contamination is prevalent in this kind of environment where the floor [covered in ‘deep litter’ – typically wood-shavings and sawdust] does get impacted with excrement.

“So if we think battery egg production is bad [and it is], then the mass-production of immature chickens for the table is a whole lot worse.”

Nonetheless, there is some hope that if the majority of chickens for roasting are sold through the major supermarket chains then welfare standards overall will improve. If sales decline there might be less incentive to invest in better production methods. It is interesting that Waitrose and the Cooperative Food showed better improvement than other retailers – and I don’t think they were starting from a worse position. Their advantage seems to me to be that both organisations have their own farms and are probably closer in touch with the poultry industry. But most of the other big supermarkets are making some progress and the next set of test results from the FSA might be more useful in showing real trends. Asda and Morrison’s have some explaining to do but Morrison’s are challenging the latest test results, presumably because they do not correspond with their own testing.

I wish there were links in the article to the previous Conversations on this subject because there is a lot of good and informative material there that might not be noticed by newer participants and can’t be constantly repeated. Some of the earier Conversations were quite short and do not take much time to read all through. The ‘Search’ facility is hidden away on the Home page unfortunately, and the results are not listed in chronological order, but putting in ‘Campylobacter’ brings up the previous Conversations.

FSA show Morrisons heavily contaminated chicken as 25.7%. Morrisons “independently accredited laboratory” tests give 5.6% based, they say, on a much larger sample size for the quarter in question.

I think the retailers and FSA need to look at all their results to be confident who (if anyone!) is correct, particularly when on fairly small samples (FSA) over a short time period judgements will be made, particularly in the press. Retailers seem to be all attempting to make improvements and work with FSA. I hope that no-one feels unable to air their views in public. We all want confidence in the results. I believe Morrisons are investigating the disparity with the FSA. Hopefully the outcome will be made known.

The disparity between M’s and the FSA’s figures is interesting. One wonders about the precise methodology used although it seems curiously akin to the Blue Flag beach awards tests. In those tests countries that do them after a prolonged dry spell do better than countries who test after heavy rain.

I gave a link to an article about the dispute between Morrisons and the FSA above. I see that Morrisons have their figures on their own website: http://www.morrisons-corporate.com/cr/campylobacter-update/

The way that the campylobacter contamination is measured (colony counts on agar plates) can be expected to yield very approximate figures. In the case of chicken skin, it consists of cutting a sample of approximately 25g of neck/breast ski, homogenising it in sterile liquid and transferring samples of this and serial dilutions to the surface of solidified selective growth medium (agar plates). After incubation, the colonies are counted. The protocol is on the FSA website and it lacks detail that would help to ensure that all labs would interpret it in the same way.

For years I had hundreds of first year students doing viable counts as a class practical and have first hand knowledge of how approximate the measurements are. Even in the hands of a skilled operator, results are neither accurate or precise.

Thank you for that link, WC. Seems neither set of figures can be assumed to be highly accurate, then.

Independent testing not much help here then. If weight is attached to numbers (as in publicising and naming and shaming) then it is incumbent upon those who produce the figures to either get them right, or to be very careful what they publish. Perhaps the FSA has been a bit reckless in pursuing naming and shaming when it was suggested that at this stage it was not appropriate?

Hopefully cooperation between the retailers and the FSA can produce data that is representative of the actual situation and agreed before publication.

Ian – It’s important to be cautious in interpreting the data. Have a look at the error bars (95% confidence intervals) in Figure 2 of this report: food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/campylobacter-retail-survey-jul-sept-2015.pdf

I would be cautious about the low figures for the Co-op and Waitrose, in view of earlier data, though it is possible that both have achieved major improvements. Likewise, the recent high figure for Morrisons may be anomalous.

Within the published protocol there is scope for variation, so I support all the tests being done by or for the FSA rather than as separate studies.

Confidence limits do not explain the gross difference between Morrisons 5.6% and the FSA’s 25.7% (17.8 to 34.9% due to uncertainty). I think with such potential anomolies it is only fair for the FSA to discuss results when they wish to point to individual retailers to ensure their validity before they go public.

I want to see which retailers perform well, and which badly, but it is essential to have confidence in the results. It will be interesting to see how the FSA and Morrisons (and maybe others) resolve the disparity.

The FSA used the following testing laboratories:
“The testing laboratories were the five Public Health England (PHE) Food, Water and Environmental Microbiology Laboratories, as well as the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Laboratory in Northern Ireland. ”

Is it possible due to the variance in testing skills and techniques in 6 different labs that the results are not sufficiently robust to make comparisons valid?

I assume that the FSA runs appropriate controls to validate results from the different labs. Unfortunately it is not practical to compare results for the same test samples in these labs.

What we can be sure of is that every supermarket chain is selling some chickens that are heavily contaminated. The public can avoid dodgy fruit & veg or badly bashed cans but no-one can tell which chickens are best avoided.

Tesco has done better than average in the results so far.

“Tesco has done better than average in the results so far.!. This is the potential danger of using results that may be questionable.

I assume other accredited independent laboratories also operate in a way that makes their results valid.

Of course a proportion of chicken is heavily contaminated; at present it seems an insoluble problem to completely eradicate, but it does seem possible to significantly reduce their proportion. Given that then to my mind the solutions from which we can choose are to properly cook chicken (and other birds), to eat frozen on the assumption it is less contaminated (but seems to not be totally free), or to avoid eating it, In the light of the known facts I see no other way to deal with it unless you wish to ban the sale of poultry and other birds.

Is there a more positive way forward that is not being explored?

Most people know that chicken needs to be properly cooked. What is more difficult is to avoid cross contamination of food that is eaten raw (e.g. salad) and food that is already cooked. Even if you don’t choose chicken in a restaurant you could be at risk from cross contamination. That’s why cleaning surfaces properly and storing raw meat correctly are important issues in food hygiene inspections.

We could and should have put pressure on the companies ten or twenty years ago. I’m just glad that action has at last been taken and hopefully we will see evidence of sustained improvements across the industry. The combined effect of small improvements will hopefully make chicken safer.

Some time ago I noted that the real issue is with the overuse of antibiotics in animals. An article in New Scientist now confirms what I said and notes bacteria carrying a gene that allows them to resist polymyxins, the antibiotics of last resort for some kinds of infection, have been found in Denmark and China, prompting a global search for the gene.

The discovery means that gram-negative bacteria, which cause common gut, urinary and blood infections in humans, can now become “pan-resistant”, with genes that defeat all antibiotics now available. That will make some infections incurable, unless new kinds of antibiotics are brought to market soon. The gene is mcr-1 and the discovery in Denmark now has researchers across the globe testing for its presence.

In five bacterial samples from poultry meat imported from Germany between 2012 and 2014 all the bacteria also carried genes conferring resistance to many other antibiotics, including penicillin and cephalosporins.

The genes found in Denmark and China are the same suggesting mcr-1 has travelled, rather than arising independently in each place.

And here’s the worrying bit: It is thought to have emerged originally in farm animals fed colistin as an antibiotic growth promoter.

See: newscientist.com/article/dn28633-resistance-to-last-resort-antibiotic-has-now-spread-across-globe/

This article relates to a recent paper in the Lancet that gives an indication of the extent of antibiotic use in agriculture. To quote from this paper:
China is the world’s largest poultry and pig producer, and in 2014 produced 17·5 million tonnes and 56·7 million tonnes, respectively. Most of the production is for domestic consumption with about 10% for export. The global market value of veterinary drugs increased from US$8·7 billion in 1992 to $20·1 billion in 2010, and in 2018 is anticipated to reach $43 billion. China is also one of the world’s highest users of colistin in agriculture.

Industry is only interested in short-term profits and not the long-term risks of using antibiotics as growth promotors. I don’t know what it will take to put an end to use of antibiotics in agriculture or why their use as growth promotors was not stopped long ago. The risks of transfer of antibiotic resistance between bacteria have been understood for years.

Even in the western world there are severe problems with multiple drug-resistant bacteria, particularly hospital-acquired infections. I have just been speaking to a friend in his early 60s who had his foot amputated after suffering from an infection that failed to respond to extensive treatment.

“why their use as growth promoters was not stopped long ago”. As I understand it the use of both antibiotic and hormonal growth promoters was banned throughout the EU some years ago. Other countries – including I believe USA – still permit their use. Antibiotics are still, understandably, used to treat animal health by vets. We do need to find ways to minimise their use in both animals and humans.

Malcolm – That’s my understanding too, but even if no antibiotics are used as growth promotors in Europe, their use can still help spread the transfer of drug resistance elsewhere in the world. Once the bugs are drug-resistant they can easily be moved between countries.

While researching campylobacter I found reports that suggest that antibiotics are still used as growth promoters in Europe, but have no way of knowing if this is true.

Despite considerable efforts we have produced no new class of antibiotics for many years. There is one possible candidate – teixobactin – but I’m waiting for trustworthy information rather than hype.

The capitalist system that puts money ahead of other considerations could be our downfall.

Yes; if Which? were to examine Capitalism as a product, it’d probably be classed as unfit for purpose…

Very good, Ian. Maybe we should get rid of the politicians and replace them with scientists capable of understanding the consequences of our lifestyle.

I would support a move to put real, trained, intelligent people who understand their subjects and have integrity in charge of running the country. Imagine how long any business would survive if run with opposing boards who constantly try to score publicity points, denigrate anything being done, whose employees all cheat on expenses, make decisions based on sponsors views, anything to self promote. I’d like professional management of the UK – but that will never happen whilst personal power is the reward.

A start would be to remove from office anyone who does not behave honestly or with integrity. Perhaps a Which? campaign or super complaint? . 🙂

That would be good, Malcolm, but I believe that Which? is apolitical. Sometimes I think it would be good if governments were taken to task for failing to deliver what they have promised.

To get back to the subject on the card, I see that the Which? campaign to ‘Make chicken safe’ has closed. 🙁

Thankfully the Food Standards Agency is still on the case. Whether its the chicken industry or politicians, I want to see results, not promises.

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A BEUC press release today concerns the proposal, under pressure from the USA, to wash chicken in peroxyacetic acid. Many European consumers apparently would not want to eat meat thus treated, the treatment does not seem to be particularly effective and BEUC feels allowing it would take pressure off producers from taking preventative measure from the farm onwards.

“The strategy also aims to allow slaughterhouses to wash poultry carcasses with the chemical substance peroxyacetic acid (PAA). This follows a request by the United States’ Department of Agriculture that the EU approves the use of this chemical wash which is widely used in US poultry plants.”

BEUC’s submission to the EC setting out their concerns can be found here:

.beuc.eu/publications/beuc-x-2015-123_mgo_european_commissions_campylobacter_strategy.pdf

Incidentally, it also cites the more acceptable actions being taken in the UK

Thanks. That has more detail than the report that turned up in my daily search: eubusiness.com/Members/BEUC/chicken-safe

Peroxyacetic acid (also known as peracetic acid) is the main alternative to various chlorine-based treatments (bleach and related chemicals). Chemical treatments are not currently permitted in Europe but have been used for years in the US (I don’t know if this is throughout the US or some states). I mentioned earlier that there was pressure for European countries to use chemical treatment.

I don’t know whether to believe the recent figures for Co-op and Waitrose chicken, but this is the sort of major decrease in contamination is what we should be expecting from all retailers to make the introduction of chemical treatment unnecessary. I suspect that opposition from other European countries could greatly help oppose chemical treatment.

IFF rational Science based methods were used, all dangers could be eliminated by irradiation of meat susceptible to bacterial infection.
Unfortunately those incapable, and / or unwilling, to bridge C P Snow’s ”Two Cultures ” divide, rush around like Chicken Licken foretelling death and horror film mutations from radio-active nuclides.
Balderdash, utter balderdash.

Poultry is one of the seven categories of food that can be irradiated in the UK. I am surprised that this has not been discussed before now. There is a lot of misunderstanding and some people think that food irradiation makes food radioactive!

My understanding is that although campylobacter can penetrate tissue, it is generally present on the surface and the supermarkets are selling us chicken coated in faeces.

I still hope that the farming and processing industry will adopt practices that make chemical treatment and irradiation unnecessary.

+ 1

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The FDA website claims that irradiation of a wider ranges of foods is safe: fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm261680.htm

No doubt the truth is somewhere in between.

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TTIP is undoubtedly an important issue. I’ve mentioned this in the context of chemical treatment of chicken, on this page. Two people have suggested we discuss TTIP in the ‘Ideas’ section, but nothing has happened.

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”Supermarkets must step up to the plate.”

What does this mean, please?
And what is the origin of it?
Is it being suggested that the ROC for investors is so low that The Big Six are having to go,
Oliver Twist like,
to ask for even MORE Taxpayers’ input to their businesses?

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Agree DL.
And when the crisis comes it will be no use doing what Marx did to Hegel, and contacting
999.
Gulp !

Parliament is discussing TTIP today. It’s a mighty complex subject, however, so will be beyond most MPs. And you may well find your own MP won’t even discuss it with you. But we desperately need a topic in which to discuss TTIP.

Several people have suggested TTIP as a subject for discussion in the ‘Ideas’ section. From the feedback supplied, it looks as if Which? is making an input via BEUC, but it does not look as if it will be a subject for discussion on W? Convo.

I suspect that chicken treated with peroxyacetic acid or chlorine could be the least of our concerns about TTIP.

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It is complex, but the devil’s in the detail. One problem is that many MPs think they understand it because they’ve created Trade treaties before but there are various aspects of this proposal that make it quite unlike anything they’ve done previously.

The debate is now taking place:

parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/commons/todays-commons-debates/read/unknown/396/

Peter Lilley (con) said this:

“My concern, and the concern of my constituents who declare themselves to be members of 38 Degrees, is that we may be creating a bureaucratic and legal process that may escape proper democratic control and may be subject to improper corporate influence. It is also symptomatic, although this is the least important point, of bureaucracies that perpetuate their existence even when the task they were established to do is largely complete. Literate Members of this House—we are all literate—will remember Dickens describing the circumlocution office, whose chief, Lord Tite Barnacle

“had died at his post with his drawn salary in his hand”

defending the existence of an organisation that no longer had any need to exist. Actually, because we have succeeded on tariff negotiations, we should be scaling down, not up, the international bureaucracy and not giving it far more undemocratic powers.”

On the food front we also have the traceability of meats following the horse-meat scandal and the non-action in this is highlighted in this French report:
http
image.quechoisir.org/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application/ef105ccea07b7a95171ab1cbe7d7e56a.pdf

As the FSA results and retailers’ independently tested results (based on larger sample sizes) can be somewhat different I have asked the FSA whether both results can be combined to get the benefit of the largest possible samples on which to judge progress. I must say the FSA are most open and helpful in replying, and quick. Their reply is as follows:

“Many thanks for your email and continued interest in our Campylobacter retail survey. Our Helpline has kindly forwarded me your email and I hope I can answer this for you.

After the success of the first year’s survey, the FSA has commissioned additional sampling to continue to monitor levels of Campylobacter and see whether interventions that retailers and processors have put in place are working to reduce Campylobacter on chickens.

Ensuring robust sampling within our survey (comparable to the previous retail survey), 4000 chickens are evenly sampled over a 12 month period, however, we have modified the sampling design to increase the statistical confidence in the differences of Campylobacter levels among retailers. To achieve this, an equal number of chicken samples (100) from each of the main retailers will be sampled each quarter. This new survey commenced sampling in July 2015.

Indeed, some parts of the industry have already initiated and shared with us a large collection of data and we are currently assessing the feasibility of utilising industry data that is:

– Robust; by appropriate random sampling and sufficient sample numbers.
– Comparable across the industry; with regards to the methodological laboratory protocols.
– Independently analysed.
– Published and shared on a regular basis.

To support this process, at the last ACT Board meeting in November 2015, we set out in a document what we believe would ensure sampling and methodology robustness. Once supermarkets’ own independent Campylobacter testing adheres to the above set criteria, we will strongly consider utilising the larger numbers of test results which industry generates to more accurately assess whether the target is being achieved consistently across the industry. Sharing of industry data will also be discussed by the FSA Board at its next meeting scheduled for the 16th March 2016.

Some while ago I asked FSA what I thought to be relevant questions on their latest survey results and, as usual, have had a very helpful and informative reply. Whilst it is quite lengthy it seems only fair to reproduce it in full:

“Q: Can you tell me why you are confident that a reduction from 23% to 10% will be achieved in 2016?
A: While the target was not fully achieved across the whole of the industry by the end of 2015, the FSA is encouraged by the recent significant improvements in Campylobacter levels and has agreed to roll the target forward to the end of December 2016.

With the amount of work and commitment being done by industry and government to reduce the levels of campylobacter in chickens and the recent encouraging sampling results we would expect the target to be met in the near future. Particularly the retail survey results, demonstrate already the real progress being made by the industry. There is a growing list of interventions that have been developed and then implemented at scale, in different combinations, by different supply chains from farm to retail. These are having a demonstrable impact on the levels of contamination we are finding in the retail survey. In each of the last two quarters’ data we have published, covering chicken on retail sale between July and December 2015, the proportion of chickens that were most highly contaminated were around two-thirds of the equivalent figures for the same periods in 2014. This represents significant progress, and although it confirms that the target was not met at the end of 2015, our knowledge of the further interventions that are currently being implemented at scale on farm and by processors gives us renewed confidence that this target is now within reach.

Q: Can you also say why all slaughter houses have not implemented those interventions shown to be effective?
A: Interventions have to be trialled at real slaughter line speeds and over a sufficient period of time to ensure that they are both practical and effective and this requires a significant amount of time. Only once these criteria are fulfilled and an intervention has been shown to have a sufficient impact on Campylobacter reduction (and not all pass the necessary criteria), can a processor consider installing it on other processing lines within their plants. We expect more slaughterhouses to install innovative technologies in the future as trials are completed.

Campylobacter can be found virtually everywhere within the environment and many different interventions are required. Not all solutions will be appropriate in all circumstances. The results of our survey help to focus the efforts of retailers and processors in finding suitable solutions within their production and supply chain to reduce Campylobacter levels.

Q: It does seem to me that checking contamination, and interventions, at the farm and at the processors is even more valuable than checking the retailers. After all, the retailers essentially take a product that has been prepared by a processor so unless the latter are diligent, the retailer will suffer. Do FSA check contamination at processors and are these figures going to be published alongside the retailers?
A: The FSA established a programme of monitoring campylobacter contamination levels from March 2012. Samples are taken from chickens at the end of processing (post-chill) in 19 specified UK slaughterhouses and tested to determine the level of Campylobacter present on the skin. Results are classified into three bands of contamination, which correspond to less than 100 colony forming units/gram (cfu/g), between 100 and 1,000 cfu/g and more than 1,000 cfu/g (results of which were summarised in the 4th ACT e-newsletter:

http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/campaigns/campylobacter/actnow/act-e-newsletter/the-slaughter-house-target).

In terms of our retail survey, the retailers are responsible for the products they sell. It is up to the retailers to ensure that the processors are producing chickens of the appropriate quality. Nevertheless, we are working with the whole industry, from farmers to retailers, to encourage them to introduce interventions that will help reduce levels of Campylobacter on chickens.

Our retail survey was specifically designed to sample from the main retailers and an ‘Other’ group (made up of smaller retailers and individual shops) and was not designed to match processor market share. We have sufficient sample numbers to attribute results to the key 9 retailers, but for the processors, sample sizes are not representative of their output. Additionally, our survey is aimed at informing consumer choice and consumers will choose on the basis of a retailer, not the processor. Therefore within our retail survey it would not be appropriate to name processors. However, similar to the Year 1 final report, the final Excel sampling sheet of Year 2 will contain each sample’s processor approval number.”

Thank you very much Malcolm. Some very good questions that you’ve got some significant answers to. Really impressed as always.

I’m going to talk to our policy and campaigns team to see how we might be able to publish this information in a more high profile place.

Thanks Malcolm. It is interesting that the FSA regards the retailer as responsible for the food: “In terms of our retail survey, the retailers are responsible for the products they sell. It is up to the retailers to ensure that the processors are producing chickens of the appropriate quality.”

If we buy a washing machine that is unsatisfactory or breaks down, it is the retailer that is responsible, but if it is unsafe it is the manufacturer that is responsible for a recall.

I can understand the FSA’s objective of informing consumers about the quality of the food at the retailers where they make their purchases. My point was that what really matters to me is that all the food (chicken in this case) should be of good quality, and this starts with good practice at the farm and processor. The FSA have explained what is being done here to make this happen. A complex problem where, hopefully, appropriate”interventions” will be introduced once they are proven to be effective.

I f a processor discovered a batch of chicken was unsafe I presume they would recall it from all the retail outlets they had supplied, and the retailers would do their best to inform consumers.

I think the FSA is pursuing a sensible, thought-out, course of action here and glad to see that all involved seem to be working together to make chicken safer.

Yes – all food should be safe, irrespective of where it is purchased and how much it costs. I have made this point when we have been discussing food fraud and other food safety issues.

Hopefully the number of number of people who suffer from the effects of campylobacter food poisoning will decrease as a result of the actions of the poultry industry, but I would like to see more action to eliminate heavily contaminated carcasses. Despite initial doubts, it has been shown that progress can be made.

Anyone with their wits about them can take precautions to avoid cross contamination of other food by uncooked chicken and make sure that the meat is adequately cooked, but we have a growing number of older people who could make mistakes.

I have just been speaking to a friend who is recovering from Guillain–Barré syndrome, a rare complication of campylobacter infection. After several months in hospital and regular physiotherapy she is able to walk short distances with help but does need support. It is likely to be two or three more years before she (hopefully) gains proper use of her hands. Thankfully her husband is retired and able to look after her. This was a consequence of eating chicken in a restaurant, but could have happened to someone eating chicken at home.

Once again, thank you very much to Malcolm. We have now published the responses he received from the FSA as a new Conversation: https://conversation.which.co.uk/food-drink/fsa-campylobacter-chicken-supermarket-q-and-a/

Splendid work malcolm r.

This is the kind of leg-work which is much appreciated by those who want to go beyond simply signing a petition. It is a great shame that given the way Which? is organised when it comes to subscribers retrieving information this information will be buried.

Oh for a CAWiki with summary and latest up-dates and background information.

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Would you kindly post the links / URLs so that I can see these pix and read the texts , please?
Many thanks

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Great to be back and to see that you are as frisky and bushy tailed in your defence of Free Speech as ever !

Got it in ONE click.
I don’t use so called Social media either – but more of that later no doubt.
Do you remember the fantastic fuss there was in the right wing press [Tho’ I’m not so sure we have any other] when accusations were flying around over Gordon Brown sanctioning desert boots, sun cream, trousers, sox and anything else the Mail could think of, for the armed forces?
How Used Yankeee cast offs were selling at a premium to our brave lads and lassies who had been given cardboard boots by White Feather Brown?
All of it was, as usual, declared to be a fraud soon after – but damage done.
Now, where are the Wail. sExpress, Sun&Bum. Torygraph, etc with this story of the efficiency and great service at rock bottom prices from the private sector?

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Thanks for today’s update, Neena.

I have considerable respect for the Food Standards Agency but I don’t feel that enough pressure is being put on the industry to tackle the campylobacter problem, so the problem drags on.

Overall, 7% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination

Among the nine retailers with the highest market share, 5% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination

Many believe that they can protect themselves by cooking chicken. That will kill the bacteria, but there is still the danger of cross contamination of cooked foods, salads etc from raw chicken, both in the home and commercial premises.

All the attention has focused on whole chicken rather than the the various portions that represent a large proportion of chicken sold in supermarkets, or the fast food industry where chicken appears in many dishes.

Last year different “interventions” were trialled to see which were more effective and worth adopting. As I understood the FSA’s position, the successful ones would then be introduced across the industry and I assume that is happening. Hopefully we will then see a further substantial reduction in affected chicken and products.

It must be remembered that campylobacter is naturally occurring and appears in red meat and untreated water also. It would be interesting to see figures from other countries with our climate, and from those from whom we import chicken. I presume this is mostly frozen, which seems to be an effective control. Cooking is the proper way to stay safe, as is kitchen hygiene.

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I would ridicule those who buy them. I presume you can still buy cans of London Air (slightly different, I agree). A rip-off is only such, in my humble opinion, if it an inescapable purchase. I would not describe empty jam jars as that. 🙂

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