/ Food & Drink

Shocking levels of potentially deadly bug in chicken

After a year of testing the Food Standards Agency has today published its full results on the levels of potentially deadly Campylobacter found in supermarket chickens.

It found that nearly three-quarters of supermarket chickens are still being found contaminated with the bug, which could make you seriously ill or even kill you. This beggars belief.

Each year, it is estimated that 100 people die and an estimated 280,000 fall ill from Campylobacter. Today’s test results have shown that there has to be more done to bring down the levels in chicken.

Campylobacter action plans and what more must be done

We’ve been pressing the supermarkets to take action to make chicken safe, and publish their individual action plans on how they intend to bring down levels of Campylobacter.

So far, eight out of 10 of the supermarkets have published plans and told us what they are doing. We are satisfied they are taking the problem seriously and have ticked them off our Safe Chicken Checklist.

There are two remaining supermarkets that, whilst we are pleased to see they have published plans and shown that they take this problem seriously, we think need to do more to make their plans clearer.

Morrisons and Sainsbury’s need to be clearer on the detail of the actions they will take in future (not just what they’ve done so far), timescales for action, and that their CEOs have endorsed their plans.

The biggest food safety concern in the UK

The FSA says that Campylobacter contamination is now the biggest food safety concern in the UK. For supermarkets to be seen to be taking this seriously we would expect them to have published credible plans and to be getting on with reducing levels in their supply chains.

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

This Conversation is timely because the Food Standards Agency has now published cumulative results for whole chicken sold by supermarkets: http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2015/14003/campylobacter-survey-results-12months

It’s encouraging to hear of actions but this is no time for complacency, since not one of these supermarkets has achieved the target set by the FSA. The best of the bad bunch is Tesco, where the percentage of heavily contaminated samples remains lower than the other retailers tested.

Although the problem arises at the farming and processing stages, the supermarkets are knowingly selling heavily contaminated chickens that can make large numbers of people sick, or worse, as Darren says in his introduction. I have been following the campylobacter issue since November and nothing that I have read gives me confidence that the industry is doing enough to tackle the long standing campylobacter problem. Thanks to Which? for keeping us updated.

Profile photo of alfa
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Campylobacter was just described as a naturally occuring bacteria on the BBC News.
Are they correct in their description?

Profile photo of wavechange
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It’s a fair statement because the Campylobacter species that cause food poisoning in humans can be isolated from the environment. The intensive farming conditions encourage spread between animals and to new flocks introduced to an environment that is heavily contaminated. Sometimes the fact that campylobacter exists in the environment seems to be used as an excuse for the problem

Most bacteria can be described as naturally occurring. Exceptions would be those that are deliberately introduced, selected for certain characteristics, or genetically modified.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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FSA results are an average over a year apparently, so does not seem to look at whether recent action plans have had any effect. If you look at M&S website their recent figures indicate they achieve half the FSA target. However we have had cold months that will no doubt reduce campylobacter naturally.
I have asked FSA whether they have data by supermarket by quarter, how winter affects data, whether they are going to continue sampling and whether they will sample and inspect the processors.

Profile photo of John Ward
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I should have thought that the high temperature [due to stock density] and the intense atmosphere under which broiler chickens are reared would be conducive to the rapid multiplication of any bacteria, Winter notwithstanding.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The benefit of looking at the data for a year is that the number of samples is more statistically significant, as can be seen from comparing the confidence intervals for the cumulative data with those for the data published last November. FSA is going to continue their studies next year according to what is on the page I provided a link to.

I am disappointed that the FSA have ignored my advice to publish their data in a form suitable for the general public – which means using a visual presentation and avoiding terms such as cfu/g and confidence interval. As it stands, the information is not easy for the general public to understand. M&S does adopt a visual approach, which is commendable despite the unusual format, but fails to explain terms such as >1000. The use of red/amber/green draws attention to the heaviest contamination. FSA now says “The highest band (>1000 cfu/g) is the primary focus of attention”, though this point needs to be highlighted when data are published.

The FSA makes it clear that interventions are needed throughout the entire process, so I agree that the processors should be inspected. With most chicken processed by two major companies, the job should be much less onerous than inspecting the numerous farms.

Profile photo of wavechange
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John – I take your point about the effect of temperature on the multiplication of bacteria, but it’s not that simple. Inside the chicken the temperature is constant, irrespective of ambient temperature. Outside, most of the campylobacter will be in faeces, which will dry more quickly in warm conditions, arresting growth and probably killing many of the bacteria.

Profile photo of John Ward
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Thanks Wavechange – I hadn’t thought of that. So a less-intensive husbandry might actually be worse in terms of bacterial infection?

Profile photo of wavechange
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I don’t know, John. The point I made is just one of many factors that could be involved. In an earlier Conversation, you mentioned your visit to see broiler production. My understanding is that transmission is primarily via the faecal-oral route, i.e. the birds eat or drink contaminated material. Unlike humans, the chickens don’t get ill but campylobacter grows in their intestines and their waste is heavily contaminated. During the mass processing of carcasses, the waste gets everywhere, contaminating birds that don’t carry campylobacter, and inadequate cleaning means that contaminated chicken ends up on the supermarket shelves.

I hoped to find evidence that less intensive production such as organic farming might help address the problem, but the longer lives and lack of use of growth-promoting antibiotics seems to offset the benefits.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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“The benefit of looking at the data for a year is that the number of samples is more statistically significant”. FSA tested 130 samples for M&S. The M&S report tested 487 samples in an independent FSA approved laboratory on samples taken from stores at random. Seems a shame such results, and no doubt those from other stores, were not taken into account by FSA to give more meaningful results.
From what is said, winter might be a worse time for spreading campylobacter? I have seen contrary statements elsewhere, so it would be useful to clarify this. Trend is important, not average, to see if they are making any progress.

Profile photo of wavechange
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We will start to see trends when the results from the the second year of study become available. Seasonal differences have been documented but there are so many possible differences in animal husbandry that I cannot see much possibility of deriving useful information from seasonal differences unless it can be shown that one broiler shed is performing significantly better than others.

It’s possible that the additional tests done for M&S were done in different labs, in which case if would not be appropriate to compare them. Having supervised technicians carrying out the apparently simple process of doing bacterial counts I’m aware that it is a challenge to produce reproducible data.

I would be interested to know if there is any obvious reason why Asda chickens are substantially contaminated than those from Tesco, i.e. look at the biggest difference.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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We need to know sooner rather than later whether actions are having a significant effect – not waiting yet another year. All availabnle data should be used – the FSA can decide whether M&S and other stores results are valid. “Methodology – based on a total sample of 487 M&S chickens. The tests are carried out by FSA approved independent testing laboratory Campden BRI.
The chickens tested are taken at random from the shelves of M&S stores across the UK”.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The FSA should decide whether or not it would be appropriate to use these data. They will have access to information that we don’t. Advertising is full of inappropriate comparisons and one of my personal hates is inappropriate use of data.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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M&S used Campden BRI ( http://www.campdenbri.co.uk/ ) as their test lab. Should we doubt their results? If not they should be read alongside FSA’s to get a fuller picture. The same comment would apply to any of the supermarkets who have had independent testing done properly.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I have no concerns about Campden BRI and I very much value independent testing.

Whereas it is often easy to measure physical or chemical characteristics, it can be much more difficult to do so with biological materials. In studies of contamination of chicken, the campylobacter bacteria are present as a biofilm on the surface of the skin. The challenge is to get most of the bacteria into suspension without affecting the viability of these bacteria, which are fragile compared with many bacteria. Analytical labs generally follow standard protocols but it’s good practice to carry out all the tests in the same lab. If the FSA is confident that it is useful to compare the sets of data, I expect that they will do so. Perhaps the way forward is for retailers, processors and growers to fund more frequent testing under identical conditions, rather than testing being done piecemeal.

I’ve visited one of the Campden BRI sites years ago to discuss possible research collaboration. That came to nothing but they promptly head-hunted a member of my research group. He went on to become research director in a large company and is now back in academia, having decided that money isn’t everything.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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I will refer to this as it does offer the opportunity to go to a meeting:

“The agenda and papers for the next open Board meeting have been published. The meeting will be held in London on Wednesday 3 June 2015. It will begin at 9am and will be chaired by FSA Chair Tim Bennett. You can attend in person or watch it live online.”

Anyway those who are not signed up this is what is being said in the newsletter:

Tackling campylobacter, from farm to fork
Welcome to the 2nd edition of the ACT electronic newsletter, a regular bulletin bringing together information on the government and industry-wide campaign to tackle campylobacter from farm to fork.
Tackling campylobacter is the Food Standards Agency’s top priority. We have set a clear expectation that poultry producers, processors and retailers take action to reduce levels of campylobacter in chicken. We plan to capture some of these projects in our e-newsletters so make sure you don’t miss any.
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Campylobacter Abattoir Campaign
The Campylobacter Abattoir Campaign continues to gain momentum with evidence that an increasing number of food business operators are getting behind activities to reduce contamination levels in plants.
FSA Campylobacter Leads report that the phased activity to influence changes in production practices have resulted in many poultry plants introducing tests on equipment and on processed birds to check campylobacter levels.
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Investigating bird colonisation status at slaughter
The National Farmers Union is investigating if on-farm growing practices have an impact on bird colonisation status at slaughter under the auspices of project FS 101123 funded by the Food Standards Agency. The project commenced in September 2014. The general approach taken by the study is to test the campylobacter status of birds on farm prior to harvest. At the same time, farmers answer questions that describe the production conditions and agricultural practices used to grow the birds.
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FSA visit broiler farm
FSA visit to broiler chicken farms
Several members of the Food Safety Policy Division recently visited a number of broiler chicken farms to see how they are run and to observe the biosecurity measures used to minimise campylobacter contamination.
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A potential silver bullet!
BOC Linde Gases and Bernard Matthews have developed and trialled the ‘Rapid Surface Chilling’ technology that kills off up to 95% of all skin and membrane Campylobacter contamination. Most of this arises from the use of high speed automatic evisceration equipment, where faecal contamination occurs from vent drill and evisceration spoon functions.
=============
Developments at 2 Sisters Food Group
2 Sisters Food Group is now half way through it no thin and farmer incentive studies. The data collected so far on the no thinning study looks encouraging, however no definitive conclusions will be drawn until the study is completed in November 2015 and a full analysis of the complete results is undertaken.
=============
Retail survey on levels of campylobacter on chicken
The 12-month survey, running from February 2014 to February 2015, is looking at the prevalence and levels of campylobacter contamination on fresh whole chilled chickens and their packaging. The survey will test 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers. The full set will be published on 28 May 2015.

The Linde experiment rather confusingly dates from 18 months ago and one would have hoped this technique offering a 95% kill rate would have been seriously tested by now. However perhaps the economics make it commercially difficult.

Munich, 10 September 2013 – Linde Gases, a division of The Linde Group, today announced that positive results from trials of a new cryogenic technology could enable the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK to meet its 2015 Campylobacter reduction targets. The technology, Rapid Surface Chilling™, has been developed by Linde’s UK subsidiary, BOC, and Bernard Matthews Ltd, the UK’s leading turkey farmer and supplier.

Campylobacter bacterium is found on the surface of almost all raw chicken and is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK with an estimated 500,000 cases leading to 80,000 primary care consultations and, in 2012, 85 deaths. The cost to the UK economy is estimated to be in the region of £900m (EUR1.1bn) representing over half of the total cost of food-related illness.

The technology, Rapid Surface Chilling™, which involves swift chilling of the surface of the poultry using a cryogenic vapour, has been developed by BOC and Bernard Matthews in collaboration with the FSA and Campden BRI, the UK’s largest food and beverage R&D organisation.

The FSA’s 2015 target is to reduce the numbers of birds carrying the highest levels of contamination from 27 percent of the total population slaughtered in the UK – more than 800 million a year – to 10 percent. Results from initial batch trials indicate that Rapid Surface Chilling™ is an effective intervention that could enable the FSA to meet its targets.

Nathan Palmer, Business Director, Bulk and Cylinder Gases, BOC, said: “We are confident that our new Rapid Surface Chilling™ technology represents a significant step forwards towards meaningful reductions in Campylobacter infection and could enable the FSA’s contamination reduction targets to be met.”

An industrial scale trial using the patent-pending process and technology has already started at a leading poultry processor and member of the Campylobacter Joint Working Group with very positive initial results. During the next few weeks the trial will statistically validate the solution, ensure current poultry meat marketing regulations are adhered to and gain FSA and EU approval and support.

Jeremy Hall, Technical Director of Bernard Matthews Ltd, commented: “This is a key milestone in the development of a solution to an enormous and serious health concern in the broiler industry. These latest results are good news for the UK consumer and endorse the considerable efforts we are putting in to help reduce Campylobacter at the poultry processing stage.”

On the Linde site there is a very full document on how using various gases can be used to keep products on the supermarket shelf longer – which can be downloaded

” How far can I extend the shelf-life of my products by using a MAP system?
That depends on many factors such as food product, temperature, hygiene, package and gas mixture. Generally, shelf-life can be increased by a period ranging from days to several weeks. For specific information, see the MAPAX® booklet.”

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

From this report: “Campylobacter bacterium is found on the surface of almost all raw chicken and is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK with an estimated 500,000 cases leading to 80,000 primary care consultations and, in 2012, 85 deaths.”

These figures are different from the 280,000 cases and 100 deaths annually that have been extensively published by the FSA.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thanks for letting us know that the the forthcoming meeting will be available online. 🙂

My understanding is that the rapid surface chilling process works by creating a thin frozen film on the outside of the carcass, which will contain the majority of the campylobacter. There is generally little in the tissue. The figures shown in the graphic equate to more than a 90% and I don’t understand the diagram showing the data. My question is whether the chilling process is effective on the inside of the bird, which may not have been cleaned of faecal contamination as effectively as the outside and may not reach the required temperature to kill the bacteria during cooking. The cost of processing a bird have been quoted in pence, but that probably ignores the cost of installing the plant.

As far as I am aware, gas mixtures are widely used to protect fresh meat from spoilage, increasing safe storage time and decreasing wastage. The packages are often marked ‘packed in a protective atmosphere’. This is how supermarkets are able to offer packs containing beef that remains bright red for days. A key factor is to remove as much oxygen as possible.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Frozen chicken appears to be vitually free of campylobacter so maybe until the problem is solved the FSA should dictate that only frozen chicken is sold? However, is the problem of such a magnitude? Otherwise to preserve public health this would be the obvious action to take. So perhaps the FSA should be asked. We need to keep the campylobacter problem in perspective.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Freezing does help to decrease the extent of campylobacter contamination. I looked at this earlier and the effect is highly variable, probably because the rate of freezing affects the size of ice crystals produce. Ice crystals damage integrity of the fragile cytoplasmic membrane leading to loss of viability. Here’s a link to an article on the FSA website: http://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/multimedia/pdfs/fsis0409.pdf

It might well be prudent to freeze chicken but we must not use this as a reason to cut back on the effort to tackle a problem that I’ve been aware of since the 70s, when I started work in a microbiology lab.

A possible problem is that thawing chicken can result in significant leakage of liquid from the pack and if that is contaminated with campylobacter, salmonella, etc. users may be exposed to greater risk.

Profile photo of wavechange
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All our discussion about the campylobacter have focused on whole chicken, yet we probably buy more chicken as legs, breasts and diced meat. It would be interesting to know about the extent of contamination of this chicken meat.

Profile photo of John Ward
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I raised that in the other Conversation, and it would be interesting to know about all the uncooked chickens that go into the catering and food processing trades rather than straight to the domestic consumer. The fast food industry relies heavily on chicken meat and most of it probably receives intense heat treatment before service; storage might the biggest worry in that particular food chain.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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John, my guess is most of this is frozen and probably imported. FSA have not looked at imports.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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Perhaps someone attending next weeks meeting could ask these sort of questions — Which?

http://www.boconline.co.uk/en/processes/food-freezing-and-chilling/rapid-surface-chilling/jan-15/jan-15.html
I could not get the video to work on the BOC page but the YouTube version works.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZe7ToH14-w

I am getting a nasty sensation that the FSA is going to achieve its targets having seleted them with background knowledge of what is coming with the technology. Gosh I am cynical!
And the patent:
http://www.google.com/patents/WO2012168685A1?cl=en

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I don’t think you are being cynical at all. 🙂 If the FSA had set a target that none of the supermarkets could achieve, that would not help the consumer or the industry. On the other hand, if the demands were more modest the FSA could be fairly accused of not doing enough to protect the public. The range of ‘interventions’ that can help tackle campylobacter contamination is well agreed and there are at least pilot studies that give an idea of what is possible, so maybe the FSA target was a well informed guess.

I would rather see the effort focusing on improvements at the growing and processing stage rather than have to deal with carcasses coated with faeces but we know that rapid surface chilling and steam treatment are effective in tackling this problem.

Let’s hope that all the retailers achieve the FSA target with flying colours and will go on to meet tougher challenges to come.

Member
Jennifer says:
29 May 2015

What is lacking in the Food Standards Agency’s spanking brand new infographic chart ‘How to Avoid Campylobacter’ is the option “Just Don’t Eat Chicken”. Ie consider vegetarian or vegan as an option to reduce the risk. As just one option. But it’s not even there. People can be much healthier without chicken, and the risks posed by this bad food poisoning (sometimes fatal) experience.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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I think there appears to be a lack of commercial commonsense input into these sort of subjects.

To illustrate. In the US currently two politicians are trying to enforce an man overboard warning system on all cruise ships. The rate of death is 28 in a cruise population of 22 million passengers a year. There is no doubt that many of the 28 were actually suicides. Commercially it is a nonsense however politically it may look good and provide jobs.

I have no idea how much new equipment and processes will cost and hopefully it will be cheap – but at some point there should be atrade-off between the additional costs that all people will pay for the prevention of an illness to the minority who prepare their meals badly.

Profile photo of John Ward
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I think we have to keep contaminated meat out of the food chain, full stop. We had to do it with BSE in cattle and we might have to do it for campylobacter in chicken. I agree that there is a balance between risk and the costs of prevention. Isolation of flocks to prevent cross-contamination might be a good place to start. Improving culinary skills across the entire population could take too long and is still not guaranteed to be reliable. One of the factors in the equation is the cost to the NHS and the public health service of dealing with severe food poisoning. Jennifer [above] has the right idea.

We’ve heard a lot about the FSA’s activity but I should be interested to know what DEFRA is doing at the poultry production end of the problem.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The FSA generally quotes an estimated 280,000 cases and 100 deaths attributed to campylobacter each year. Obviously there will be cases that never get reported, possibly many more.

As we get older we will become more susceptible to campylobacter infection. One reason is that the secretion of gastric acid declines with age. We also have many young people taking drugs to suppress acid production, increasing their susceptibility to infection. As we age, we may take less care with food handling because of our declining mental and physical state. Unless we introduce food irradiation, there is always going to be some risk from uncooked meat but chicken and other poultry is currently the main problem and the contamination levels have increased significantly in the past ten years.

Thankfully we often put health ahead of cost in civilised society. If we only consider the financial aspect, then think about the cost of time off work due to food poisoning.

On several occasions you have raised concerns about the safety of washing at low temperature. Until there is evidence that this is making us sick, perhaps this is an issue we can ignore.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I support what John has said. Obviously there will be costs involved in tackling the campylobacter problem and it makes sense to devote expenditure to the most cost effective measures. Some of the ‘interventions’ that have been suggested are not costly. For example, by making sure that chickens have access to clean rather than contaminated drinking water, this can reduce cross contamination between birds.

It worries me that supermarkets are knowingly selling heavily contaminated poultry in their shops. Remembering that certain banks put aside substantial funds to pay for their wrongdoings last year, I suggest that all the retailers prepare themselves to pay compensation to their customers or to the families of the deceased.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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“It worries me that supermarkets are knowingly selling heavily contaminated poultry in their shops”. I doubt this is the case. They will not know without testing every bird whether it is contaminated or not. However, if you are concerned about eating chicken and are not confident you can cook it properly the best solution is not to buy it at all, buy frozen chicken or don’t eat it when dining out. For those who do like chicken then cook it thoroughly to destroy any contamination. It seems a simple choice. The FSA have a target to aim for but it does seem we will not eliminate campylobacter totally so we will need to live with that.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I don’t envisage that campylobacter will be eliminated but I do hope that the high level contamination will soon become a thing of the past. With a few exceptions, our bodies generally cope well with low level bacterial contamination but as evidenced by the incidence of campylobacter infection, they can be overwhelmed by heavier contamination.

I see the actions of the FSA as commendable. They are keeping the public well informed about this and other matters of public concern. I’m also very grateful to Which? for focusing on the issue.

I have read enough to believe that sufficient pressure is being put on the industry to address the campylobacter problem. Hopefully we will see improvements in animal husbandry because chickens seem to be treated dreadfully in order to bring us cheap meat.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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100 000 people a year die from smoking-related illnesses. 1000 times as many as from campylobacter infections. So should we ban smoking products? And if a shop has sold tobacco regularly to an individual who dies, should they be sued for knowingly supplying a product that can cause disease and death? Or do we leave an individual to take responsibility for their actions – providing they are given the information necessary to make a considered decision?

Profile photo of wavechange
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Perhaps we should ask the opinion of those who have had a case of Guillain–Barré syndrome or a fatality in their family. It might be an idea to put Biohazard stickers on each of the chickens on sale.

People deserve to be able to buy safe food, irrespective of where they buy it from or how much they pay for it. Chicken should be no more of a hazard than other fresh meats.

The dangers of smoking were not well understood when I was a child, but the fact that it could give you a cough and make you smell horrible was enough to prevent me experimenting. There are precedents for legal action against tobacco companies but not, as far as I am aware, retailers. e.g. telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10978687/Widow-of-chain-smoker-awarded-13.4bn-in-punitive-damages-against-tobacco-company.html

Profile photo of wavechange
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The Food Standards Authority is encouraging retailers to carry out their own tests for campylobacter. I hope that the retailers are encouraged to use genuine independent testing, as M&S have done. The recent FSA report shows data as a table and information about the highest level of contamination as a simple bar chart that will be easier for the public to comprehend – see Figure 1 in the report: http://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/full-campy-survey-report.pdf

It is obviously important that tests commissioned by retailers are carried out to the standard used by the FSA, and this is mentioned in their report.

I hope that all the retailers will present their data in the same format as the FSA. It is high time that we had a report from Asda, which has performed very poorly so far.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I have had a very quick response from the FSA to my email. It reads as follows:

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

In regards to the first part of your email:
Thursday’s publication of the 12 month survey of Campylobacter contamination on fresh chickens represented the cumulative results of all four quarters, these were interim results where other variables may distort any further comparison. It is therefore not advisable to compare retailers at this stage; however, as we have now the full dataset we can perform full statistical analysis on the data including comparisons of retailers across the year and any impact of seasonal variation in the current data. These results will be published in the final report expected in July 2015. It is also important to bear in mind that many intervention from retailers were introduced towards the end of our sampling period (Quarter 4 sampling was performed from November up to February/ beginning of March), this may prevent us to see the positive outcomes of these interventions in our current data set. Hence we welcomed the publications of data from these retailers using their own more current datasets. So, looking beyond our own published results, we can see trends that interventions do work in reducing Campylobacter levels on whole chicken. More importantly, we have committed to continue this survey over a further year commencing in June 2015. This will enable us to assess in detail whether and which interventions show a reduction of Campylobacter levels on fresh whole chicken at retail.

As for the second part of your question, the Agency has deployed over 70 front-line staff to help Food Business Operators to reduce levels of Campylobacter. These Officer are in attendance in the approved establishments when operating and have been supplied with the most relevant science to engage in collaborative and regular discussions. To remain innovative we have an internal crowdsourcing community to share best practise and knowledge to accelerate the process of reducing Campylobacter in our chickens. This community has taken a holistic approach to the entire production process, while recognising the peculiarities of each establishment.”

Encouraging, I thought, and I look forward to the July report.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thanks Malcolm. Now that the FSA is devoting a lot of resources to campylobacter I feel confident that we will make significant progress. Tests will be carried out over the coming year and we will be able to see what progress the industry is achieving in tackling the problem.

I expect that it will take long-term pressure on the industry to continue to reduce contamination of chicken by campylobacter. Every one of the interventions the supermarkets are currently using, or planning to use, could have been adopted before the FSA raised public awareness of the issue.

The FSA publishes minutes of its Board meetings online, and even has videos of more recent meetings. http://www.food.gov.uk/about-us/how-we-work/our-board/board-meetings
I welcome the transparency and wish that the public had the same opportunity to gain a similar insight into how consumer issues outside the food sector are being handled.

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Good work Malcolm

This is where I wish we had a Whichpedia which is , as proved by Wikipedia, an excellent way of providing all the information in one place rather than bits and bobs spread over several articles and numerous worthwhile comments.

Guarded by Which? staff to prevent malicious entries and alterations so many subjects could be easily available. The current system does a major disservice to subscribers in providing a complete picture and interesting links.

So what has Which? available?
There are eight conversations , there is no facility in the main Which? site to input a query and Chickens etc do not appear as a subject to cluck on. : ) The only way to find things is to look at the Campaigns and see how that is progressing. I believe there must have bee magazine articles but I am trying for easily availlable.

Presumably an article 13/4/2012? which is the first of the Campaign :
” News
One in five supermarket chickens contaminated with Campylobacter
Our investigation of supermarket chicken has found evidence of bacteria which may cause food poisoning if not cooked and handled correctly.
Which? tested whole chickens and chicken portions from nine supermarkets. Of the 192 samples:
– one in five (18%) were contaminated with Campylobacter
– 17% were contaminated with listeria, with 4% of samples containing levels of listeria classed as high by the Food Standards Agency (FSA)
– 1.5% also tested positive for salmonella.
Our research from February 2011 showed that 82% of the public want controls in place throughout the supply chain, so that chickens aren’t infected – rather than trying to deal with contamination at the end of the process.
Although not a directly comparable test, these results indicate an improvement on 2009, when the FSA found that 65% of fresh chickens it tested were contaminated with Campylobacter at the point of sale.
Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, says:
‘While the situation is improving, it is still unacceptable that one in five chickens we tested were found to be contaminated with Campylobacter.’
We want to see the risk of contamination minimised at every stage of production, because for far too long consumers have been expected to clean up mistakes made earlier in the supply chain.

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What you are pushing for could have considerable resource implications, Dieseltaylor. My preference would be for Which? to do tackle major issues such as the ineffectiveness of Trading Standards by raising public awareness of the problem and by putting pressure on the government.

There is certainly scope for improving the organisation of the Which? website, for example by putting the date of publication (and revision date where applicable) on every article and making it possible to display searches in chronological date of publication.

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I agree wholeheartedly about the dating of articles and when they are refreshed. It is positively criminal for any article to be undated.

I am bemused by your comment on resources as once the articles exist they can be added to in the light of new research. The throwing off of people who are abusing the system must be a Which? employee job however adding and editing could be any subscriber. Flagging up abuse of the system would also be a user driven procedure.

Wikipedia shows what can be done however it is a little unregulated and not consumer focussed, and not UK directed. I am not suggesting we would not look at how things are done in other countries for best practice and information but it would be for its relevance to our population.

Overall better information and less need to recycle articles freeing up staff for more investigative or deeper research.

On the money side we know Which? is rolling in it becuase the £3.5m a year to a loss-making commercial venture in India has stopped.

The only other point would be to have deep Whichopedia for detail and always a simple page outlining issue and current situation for those just wishing for the quick answer.

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Marks & Spencer has published more figures about tests of chicken sold in its supermarkets: http://corporate.marksandspencer.com/media/9a14ba200d8d42acb365541fb8a02f05

Hopefully the Food Standards Agency will publish data for all the supermarkets soon.

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As far as I can see these are figures from M&S reported up to the end of April, and discussed earlier in this conversation A feature was that they showed M&S were then achieving half the FSA target, The key question is whether there is an improving trend, and whether the time of year has an effect on the level of campylobacter. More testing time is needed but let’s hope M&S’s figures are matched by other retailers.

The FSA were due to publish a final report this month. Has anyone seen it yet?

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I don’t remember these M&S results but perhaps you posted it when I was on holiday, Malcolm.

It looks as if FSA is next due to report at the end of August, though I had thought it was due this month.