/ Food & Drink

What does the future hold for our food?

Frying pan with world map

There are many challenges facing the food system which will impact the choice of food we have in the future. The question is; how are these challenges going to be met head on?

I’m sure you’re aware of all the various food issues that have hit the headlines recently. The horsemeat scandal helped illustrate how meat products are traded internationally, often passing through numerous hands before reaching your table.

And our own investigations continue to highlight fraud affecting a variety of other foods – lamb takeaways, fish and chip shops and more recently, oregano.

All of these stories demonstrate how complex food supply chains can be, as well as how vulnerable. As one woman from Cardiff put it:

‘Food is supposed to be a necessity we can’t do without, yet they’re making so much money out of us they’re willing to give us anything and put stuff in it for us to crave it.’

But there are also longer-term challenges. Whether it’s an increasing global population (forecast to be over nine billion by 2050) or the effects of climate change threatening supply chains (such as flooding), more food will need to be produced with less.

Challenges facing the food industry

We wanted to make sure that your views were front and centre when the government, retailers and manufacturers plan how to tackle these food security and sustainability problems. So in conjunction with the Government Office for Science and Sciencewise, we commissioned research to explore public views on these challenges.

In a series of two-day workshops in Cardiff, Glasgow and London, we invited participants to debate their priorities for Britain’s future food supply, the wider food system and their expectations.

The report’s published today and we’ll be discussing the implications of this research with the government, as well as with the food and farming industry. You can have a read of the report here. But, in short, people were shocked to hear about the scale of the challenges facing the food system and how this may impact on the availability and choice of food in the longer term. One Londoner said:

‘I’m quite up to date on current affairs, I read the paper and newspaper articles on Facebook and things and I haven’t really seen anything. I think that’s kinda why it was such a shock on the day, this information, it’s just not talked about really.’

However, once they heard about the issues they thought it was imperative that something needed be done. The research considered views on some possible solutions to these challenges, including new farming and production methods.

Participants expected strong, independent oversight – including over food safety. And they called for action from all those involved in the food chain including retailers, manufacturers, caterers, farmers, government and consumers to address the challenges facing the food system. That’s something we wholeheartedly agree with.

If we’re to have a food system that’s secure and sustainable in the future, policymakers need to put your views at the heart of their work. So make sure to tell us what you think about the challenges facing our food system and the action you’d like to be taken.

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
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Whether you are concerned about GM food, it is likely that you are eating it. Companies rely on the fact that it is not easy to detect. They could ensure that GM crops are kept separate but making a profit is probably more important.

My biggest concern is the poultry industry. Chicken is our favourite meat and intensive farming and processing are used to bring cheap chicken to our supermarkets. The carcasses become contaminated with faeces infected with campylobacter to such an extent that we are told that it is hazardous to wash raw chicken. This problem should have been dealt with decades ago, but thanks to the efforts of the Food Standards Agency and Which?, efforts are being made to tackle the problem at last. Supermarkets now sell their contaminated chicken in bags that can be put straight in the oven.

Yesterday afternoon I was speaking to a retired chap who had briefly worked in a food processing plant and started to tell a nauseating story about what can go into food intended for human consumption.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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Its always interesting to see how large any research project is so I have had a read of the linked report. I have extracted that info and it is 49 people took part. However quickly scanning the research I find no mention of TTIP where both the EU and the US have accused each other of endangering Global Food Security.

Given TTIP is an imminent event it seems bizarre that the concerns aired by the participants were not linked to the TTIP negotiations which could change current food production methods:

“Food and TTIP
Big business sees EU food standards – crafted to protect public health and the environment – as “barriers to profit”. A host of US corporations and associations are pushing hard for EU standards to align with low US standards under a deregulation agenda.

The EU differs from the USA in its adherence to the “farm-to-fork” approach and use of the “precautionary principle”. The farm-to-fork approach ensures that hygiene is prioritised at every step of the food production process. The precautionary principle means that before a product or new process is released onto the market, companies must prove that it poses no risk to public health or the environment; in the absence of which the precaution will be taken to prohibit the product/process.

The USA adopts an opposite approach. It evaluates profit alongside health and environmental concerns; with pesticides, if a product is more profitable, the required standard for health and environmental impacts is lower. In meat production, meat is bathed in harsh chemicals before being sold, as opposed to ensuring hygiene at every step of the production process. New products or processes do not need to go through rigorous testing prior to being commercialised as they are presumed safe. The burden of proof instead falls upon the government, funded by taxpayers.

The European Commission (EC) says TTIP will not be used to lower our food safety standards. However, the EC is applying for the second time – after a failed attempt in 2008 – for acid-washed chicken to be permitted into the EU. In 2013 new legislation opened the door to beef washed in lactic acid, despite concerns about carcinogenic effects.” War On Want 2015

If Which? is interested in subscribers, and the general publics views of food safety, and of changing diet, perhaps they need to mention that the politics of trade are currently being negotiated but the public , and even MEP’s are not in the loop but US lobbyists are.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The UK is not alone in letting consumers buy chicken that is contaminated with campylobacter. Washing chicken in chlorine bleach is not permitted in the EU but it is widely used in the US to protect the public from the risk of infection resulting from poor standards of animal husbandry and processing of the birds. Bleach or acid treatment is a cheap way for the poultry industry to limit the risk of infection resulting from poor standards, and the US has less of a problem with campylobacter than the UK. Here is an article by European consumer organisation BEUC that gives an insight into how TTIP could change our approach to the problem: http://www.beuc.eu/blog/what-is-wrong-with-chlorinated-chicken/

My neighbour has been in hospital for ten weeks due to a complication of a campylobacter infection, believed to be caused by eating chicken in a restaurant. She is gradually recovering from paralysis, but her husband still spends hours by her side every day, helping to feed and look after her.

My view is that safe food should be top priority, but that’s difficult when business and politics is involved. Those who make the decisions should learn a little about the threat posed by hazardous bacteria. Treating chicken with bleach or acid will make it safer but the real answer is to clean up the poultry industry.

Profile photo of alfa
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Chicken treated with acid or bleach doesn’t sound very appetising !!!!

Profile photo of wavechange
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It certainly does not. Search for ‘Dirty chicken scandal’ and watch the YouTube video in the Guardian article to gain an insight into what can happen in the food industry. The Food Standards Agency found that all the supermarkets tested were selling chicken that may be seriously contaminated with campylobacter. Poultry is understood to be the main cause of food poisoning and responsible for an estimated 280,000 cases a year. Most people know to be careful of raw meat but bringing food contaminated to this extent into the home is not acceptable in my view.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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We must be careful to see campylobacter in context. Yes, it does cause food poisoning and yes, it has caused death and is therefore a serious issue that has international attention. But it is not a simple problem to solve, it seems, and has presumably been around for ever. Those concerned can avoid chicken. Those who know the problem will cook chicken properly. The supermarkets – certainly M&S – seem to be tackling the problem in ways that are improving matters, but the general view is it will never be eradicated, unless some so-far undetermined treatment is discovered. The best we can hope for is a substantial reduction. Double bagging chicken and cooking in the bag is a positive way to prevent cross contamination from open washing, if any campylobacter is present, and should be seen as a helpful and responsible step in the fight. But I suggest again avoid chicken – at home and elsewhere – if you wish.

Profile photo of wavechange
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It’s not just a case of being able to cook chicken properly, Malcolm. As far as I am aware, most people understand the need to cook meat adequately. Meat juices can contaminate foods like salads that are eaten raw and food that has already been cooked, so containment of the hazardous bacteria is more complicated than it might seem.

Marks & Spencer is probably embarrassed by coming below Tesco in the pecking order when the survey of campylobacter in supermarket chicken was published last year. But it should not matter where you buy, since no-one should be selling chicken that could be heavily contaminated with bacteria.

You are absolutely right that campylobacter is a challenge to deal with. It is not necessary to eliminate campylobacter but we must eliminate heavily contaminated poultry. There has been considerable discussion about whole chicken, but what of chicken pieces, diced chicken, etc.? These represent a larger share of the market, yet I have no idea if they are tested.

As you say, campylobacter infection has caused death. It is estimated that there are 100 fatalities per year in the UK. My neighbour could have become a statistic but for prompt attention, being unable to breathe on her own. Quite frankly I think I am keeping this in context and I wonder what action has been taken against the processing factories shown in the Guardian video. I don’t know how ‘food crime’ is defined but it is obvious that there are some major problems.

I am also concerned over issues including use of pesticides and other agrochemicals, antibiotic use in animal husbandry and the use of preservatives and other additives and preservatives in the manufacture of processed foods. There is a lot to be concerned about, and here I am just worrying about something that could kill us, however careful we are.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I’m not sure M&S need be “embarrassed” if you compare their own independent tests that show downward progress over the last 12 months, based on a far higher number of samples than the FSA’s, which just gave a 12 month average. However, I hope all supermarkets, and independent shops, will show greatly improved campylobacter results. I will wait to see what the latest FSA report, and supermarkets own results, show.

If people are concerned then they should avoid chicken. Observe kitchen and storage hygiene, and cook chicken properly and as I understand it you destroy any campylobacter that might be present. That was what I was trying to get across.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I’m not so sure, Malcolm. M&S could have taken action to control the growing problem with campylobacter more than a decade ago, as could other retailers but little seems to have happened until the Food Standards Agency, Which? and the press decided to publicise the problem. As a customer of M&S for many years, I feel let down. From memory, there is only a single month when the tests done by Campden BRI showed no chicken samples with heavy contamination.

Since most chicken is processed by two companies, it seems likely that we will see a general improvement across the sector. There is still considerable scope for improvement in the rearing process, which is where the campylobacter problem originates. Trivial changes such as providing the unfortunate animals with clean drinking water can help avoid cross-contamination between birds.

Profile photo of alfa
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M&S have a 5-point plan:

1. Farmer Bonus – A bonus scheme for farmers that produce ‘campylobacter free’ farms. This is intended to stop the spread of the bacteria by incentivising farmers to strictly control access to the farms and chicken houses.

2. Zero Thinning – We asked M&S farmers that supply to 2 Sisters to take part in a trial. This is ongoing and involves them stopping part harvesting chickens from flocks through the growing cycle, known in the industry as operating a ‘zero thinning’ policy. It is believed this will help maintain farm biosecurity throughout the life of the chicken, potentially reducing levels of campylobacter and delivering animal welfare benefits.

3. Blast Surface Chilling – We invested in new technology on a dedicated M&S processing line that rapidly chills whole chickens. The system circulates air at minus 90 degrees which is enough to make the chickens passing through the machine very cold without freezing them. Low temperatures help to reduce levels of campylobacter.

4. Clear Labelling – We made front of pack labelling on M&S whole chickens even clearer for customers, adding a large, front-of-pack label that says “Washed and Ready to Cook”. Washing chickens is not necessary and splashing water can spread campylobacter.

5. Double Bagging – We introduced a ‘double bag’ for M&S chickens which means they can be placed straight into the oven in a bag. The customer doesn’t need to unwrap the product precooking, reducing the risk of cross contamination in the kitchen.

M&S in conjunction with 2 Sisters seem to have made an effort to make the infected chicken less dangerous and have reduced the highest levels of campylobacter from 11% to 7%.

To my mind this is a short-term part-solution and doesn’t go anywhere near enough to making our food safe. 7% of highest levels of campylobacter is 7% too high and people are still at risk of dying from it.

Their next step needs to be sourcing chickens from a brand new farm stocked with campylobacter-free chickens (if that is even possible) where animal welfare is top-priority. Until the farms are cleaned up, the risks will remain.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I agree with your comments, Alfa.

I would respect any retailer that switched to selling frozen chicken because that does appear to significantly reduce campylobacter contamination. If chilled chicken disappeared from supermarket shelves there would be a lot of public pressure for the industry to tackle the problem, for everyone’s benefit.

Profile photo of alfa
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Decades of battery farming with chickens living in their own faeces must be a contributing factor. These sites are going to be nigh impossible to clean up.

I think campylobacter needs treating in much the same way as BSE and start again. Instead of farms being paid not to produce, they could be used to trial better ways of producing chicken.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Sadly, campylobacter is still a problem with organic chicken that is not intensively reared. Humane treatment is a good enough reason for getting rid of battery farming.

Hopefully it will not be long before individual birds can be tested for contamination using biosensors before sending for slaughter, much in the same way that a diabetic tests for glucose in blood or urine. Processing plants need to be designed to cut down on transfer of infected faeces to carcasses that are free from contamination.

We responded to the BSE problem effectively because of its sudden appearance. If campylobacter was a new problem I doubt we would see many buying chicken today.

Profile photo of alfa
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BSE, mad cow disease, burning carcasses, all sort of hit you in the face as it was so prominent in the news and countryside.

Campylobacter has sort of crept up on us and hasn’t had quite the same exposure as BSE. It might have had a lot of discussion on Which? but I haven’t seen that much elsewhere, just the odd headline or news report.

If there are approx. 100 deaths a year and every 3 days or so the news gave out “Another person has died from eating chicken”, there would be more impact, less people would buy chicken and more would be done to combat the problem.

There are conflicting reports on campylobacter in chicken. M&S say they want campylobacter-free farms, others say it is naturally occurring.

As for organic chicken, there are any number of reasons how they might be contaminated – where they originated, in transit, at a market, dubious parentage, contamination on footwear, etc.

I would at least like a trial set up to see if campylobacter-free chicken is possible.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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Last week NOIDs revealed 302 formal cases of food poisoning of which 50 were campylobactor. The total for 31 weeks is averaging 300 per week in a population of 60 million suffering from food poisoning.

You will see my posts at the bottom of this current “vertical” of campylobactor in animals – and the English are nothing if not animal lovers. Whilst looking at the NOIDs data I note that two stan out from when I looked and that is the surprising twosome Tonbridge, and Tunbridge Wells who seem to have a problem. One wonders what investigations ensue from data provided.

Profile photo of lindakaucher
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Good to see that someone is raising this core issue of TTIP and its implications for food.
Which ? is unlikely to encourage or extend this conversation because it is a mainstay of support for this dodgy deal to which so many people in the EU, and especially in the UK, have signed to indicate their opposition.

Supposed ‘consumer’ support for TTIP (though this is in reality just consumer organisations, like Which? ie commercial operawtionsof themselves) is a pillar supporting this so-called ‘trade’ deal which in fact will just give rights to big corporations to ride roughshod over our food and other safeguards. In fact commercial ‘consumer’ operations like Which? are one of the last pillars of support for TTIP, as all support drops away except from those paid to push it through.

There is no logical explanation for why Which? would support somthing that is obviously so disastrous for consumers, so the answer must be something murky in the background, unseen and unjustified in terms of the supposed purpose of the organisation.

The public, and especially Which? subscribers whose direct debits pay the organisation’s wage bill (including £360 00 to its chief executive) need to expose this duplicity, ask what the real reason is that Which? supports this so-called ‘trade’ agreement, and make their support conditional on the organisation taking a position that is in line with what the Uk and the EU public want – ie no TTIP. ( 3 and half million people have signed to oppose TTIP – 500 000 from the UK. So why is Which? still supporting it?)

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Hello Linda, thanks for your comment and good to see you on the community after we met a few weeks back.

I just wanted to make really clear that although we’ve previously mentioned some potential benefits, there are also risks which we’re as concerned about as you are. For instance, we’re opposed to the inclusion of an investor-state dispute resolution (ISDS) clause and want to see absolutely no dilution of regulatory standards that protect consumers.

As a minimum, it is absolutely imperative that existing consumer rights are not watered down by TTIP and we’re making this heard through BEUC (an umbrella group for European consumer organisations). Thanks again for sharing your views on this.

Profile photo of lindakaucher
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Which? does nto have a part in the TTIP negotiations and does not have a vote on TTIP. That is for the Trade Commission negotiators and the European Parliament.

So your ‘absolutely imperative’ conditions count for nothing.

The reality is that regulations are going to be watered down because that’s what TTIP is about, at core, and indeed this is already happening at the EU level as TTIP preparation.

So – its either oppose TTIP – and, importantly, take a responsible lead in encouraging your subscribers and other contacts to do so, or continue to quietly support it.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The finding that some of the oregano on sale is contaminated with olive and myrtle may seem absolutely trivial, but perhaps it gives an insight into what people are prepared to do to make a little money out of the public.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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wavechange, the world is inhabited by criminals who will find all sorts of ingenious ways to make money. The problem is they are usually one step ahead of everyone. Who would imagine that Oregano would be a scam target? Maybe saffron? I remember the Italian wine scandal where sales equaled twice the possible vineyard output, and the Chinese selling bits of calves lung (I think) purporting to be snails. Action will always be retrospective by the authorities. We need to rely on the vigilance and quality control of reputable suppliers to try and combat such frauds which could mean avoiding smaller, cheaper, less well-resourced outlets. Russian Vodka from your corner shop?

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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More Italian olive oil is sold than is actually produced I am informed. A lot of olive oil goes from Spain to Italy! Manuka honey is also sold way beyond its output according to the New Zealanders.

For more:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_oil_regulation_and_adulteration

http://www.foodnavigator-asia.com/Markets/Fake-honey-UK-manuka-sales-alone-outstrip-entire-global-production

Profile photo of wavechange
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Saffron was an example I used earlier, Malcolm. Being expensive, it has long been the target of adulteration and consequently is more likely to come under scrutiny.

Which? identified a problem with oregano but it took nearly a week to provide the (predictable) reason why the companies were not being named at this stage: “Due to the small sample size is, we can’t fairly name and shame brands and companies’ whole range of oregano products. If the FSA’s wider investigation identifies certain brands and outlets as serial offenders then revealing them as such might be possible.” That should have been stated in the introduction.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Thanks wavechange, but why do Which? publicise the results if it was a very limited investigation? A “small sample size” suggests it was not significant enough to take action. So why then alert consumers to what may be an insignificant problem?

To me, either brands were fraudulent or not. Which? say “In fact, nearly a quarter of the samples of oregano tested contained other ingredients, most commonly olive and myrtle leaves, which were found to make up 30% to 70% of the product”. That implies a significant problem, That doesn’t suggest a “small sample size” to me.

Perhaps Which? could enlighten us with some more facts?

Profile photo of wavechange
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This has been occupying my thoughts too, Malcolm.

If Which? had not said anything until there had been time to look at more samples and more brands then it could have been accused of suppressing information. I assume that small sample size does not necessarily cover the main brands or an adequate number of tests.

The news item in the magazine was intended to encourage us to support the ongoing Which? campaign about food fraud. The lack of useful information would not encourage my support, though I gave my support to the campaign when it was launched.

I am glad that Which? devotes coverage to food safety and food fraud but the oregano story is not Which? reporting at its best.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Which? are still avoiding naming the brands and retailers of the fake Oregano. Do they have solid evidence or not? If so, it would surely help the food fraud cause if those taking part in it were aware they would be named. They might then be more careful in the quality of the products they handled?

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Hey Malcolm, in the case of oregano, we were informed of a potential issue by Prof Chris Elliott and we were pleased to work with him on investigating it. And by identifying this as an area where fraud is taking place with Chris Elliott, we have ensured that the Food Standards Agency, as well as oregano producers, can now investigate and get to the bottom of why this is happening and take action. I have, of course shared your comments with others here and they’ll keep them in mind when designing future surveys.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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You are of course absolutely right MR!

Here Which? provides another article on food in the future ignoring both the possible changes under TTIP and even more worryingly no mention of the oregano scandal despite adulteration being a subject in the report.

Harriet – why is Which? exposing a scandal and then covering-up the names of the guilty parties? What is the logic? Please can you provide an answer.

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
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Another problem we have apart form security and sustainability is that we are apparently breeding vegetables to taste sweeter and less bitter, ridding them in the process of essential phytonutrients (see the new Scientist). According to Jed Fahey, a molecular scientist at Johns Hopkins University, “eating fruits and vegetables without phytochemicals would in many ways be analagous to drinking the empty calories of a can of soda”. We just can’t win, can we? I despair.

As diseltaylor indicates, as long as profit comes before security and sustainability, we’ll have a problem. With food, energy, health, you name it…

Profile photo of wavechange
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I read this New Scientist article too, Sophie. I’m well aware of the claims that intensive agriculture is resulting in a decline in food quality but I had not appreciated that some foods are becoming less bitter. A potential benefit is that sweeter vegetables may be more acceptable to children, and I see this is mentioned in the article.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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“A potential benefit is that sweeter vegetables may be more acceptable to children, and I see this is mentioned in the article.”

Rather similar then to saying Coke is good as it encourages children to ingest water. !

: )

Profile photo of wavechange
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If kids will eat the sweeter vegetables then it has got to be better than them avoiding vegetables altogether.

I remember being amazed at a colleague’s young son tucking into unsweetened grapefruit, thanks to his parents encouragement not to eat sweet food. That was many years ago. When I was a lad, grapefruit was bitter, but now we have sweeter versions available, so no-one needs to add sugar even if they are in the habit of doing so.

At one time it was necessary to decoke car engines periodically to keep them in good order. Perhaps we should now deCoke people for the same reason.

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
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Perhaps we should deCoke the world…

If kids will eat the sweeter vegetables then it has got to be better than them avoiding vegetables altogether? Maybe, Wavechange, but I’m not entirely convinced.

Aren’t we further sweetening teeth that are far too sweet as it is? Undoing the good work of parents, eg some dentists I know, who miraculously manage to steer their kids away from sweet rubbish? Impoverishing the richness of varieties and tastes out there, making our food blander and blander in its uniform sweetness? Unless we are lucky to have access, financially or otherwise, to better quality produce, which not all of us are.

But in the grand scheme of things, hey, I guess this may not (yet?) be on a par with security, sustainablity and safety problems…

Profile photo of wavechange
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I suspect that the ‘sweeter’ vegetables simply lack bitterness or other strong tastes that could put children off eating them. I doubt they contain much sugar, unlike fruit and processed food and drink.

Many adults don’t eat many vegetables and perhaps if they had started with plenty of bland ones they could have moved to ones that more interesting and of better nutritional value. That’s just a guess, of course.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I doubt the UK can, or should, try to solve the whole world’s food problems but a good start would be to look to our own country. During and after the last war we existed on limited choice and rations – but got by. Some of those techniques are just as applicable in these modern times when we are simply spoiled for food.

A priority should be to help wean people off processed food by education – teach them about diet, and teach them how to cook. Then look at reducing meat intake – it’s a wasteful food to produce when you look at the conversion of cereal into flesh. And I’ve always been told we eat twice as much as we need, and we probably waste 20% of what we buy – education but economics will drive that when we run short of food money.

The Which? report seemed to concentrate on chicken, meat (presumably other than chicken) and wheat. There are for more better foods to look at than this – where did vegetables and fruit figure for example?

I’ve seen “food problems” as a recurring topic since I was young, but many still manage to live on a wasteful diverse and luxurious diet compared to the war and post war years, so I doubt if apocalypse is just round the corner. But now is a good time to get back to basics. Learn to cook, learn what your diet should be. We’ve lots of unused ground to cultivate different crops if we need to – look at community vegetable gardens and, of course, if you have a garden, however small, you can grow your own. But it will all require a bit more thought and effort than just picking up a pizza.

Oh – government intervention! look at how the Common Agricultural Policy and our government policies have led to wasteful subsidies given to both inefficient farmers and wealthy conglomerates and took good land out of production. I wouldn’t trust them with a bucket of pig swill.

Don’t panic.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I see no mention of the declining population of bees in the report published by Which? and the Government Office for Science. This threat to food security is something most people can relate to, even though the experts remain uncertain about the contribution of neonicotinoids to the loss of our main pollinators of crops. Though some of these insecticides were banned in Europe in 2013, for most purposes, there is pressure to reintroduce them from farmers who claim to have no viable alternative insecticides, particularly for oil seed rape.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Despite the temporary ban on neonicotinoid pestides in force, apparently this year official harvest figures just released show a better than average crop. Despite this the Government have given in to the National Farmers’ Union giving “emergency permission” to use them on 30 000 acres in eastern England (reported in Private Eye). So those b’s are prepared to destroy our bees in the name of a seemingly unjustified “devastation” of the crop. Just what are the facts?

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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Campylobactor from pets.

“Campylobacteriosis in Dogs

Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial infection prevalent in puppies younger than six months old. The bacteria which causes the disease can even be found in the gut (gastrointestinal tract) of healthy dogs and other mammals.

Up to 49 percent of dogs carry campylobacteriosis, shedding it into their feces for other animals to contract. Because of this, humans can contract the disease if they do not practice proper hygiene after coming into contact with an infected animal.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.”

Being rational suggests that the disease will never be eradicated and that some cases reported , and deaths resulting, may be from pets rather than badly cooked chicken.

Of course we could launch a campaign to eradicate campylobactor from pets also. I am sure that will be a popular cause.

For those interested in early research from 2004 this search term works:
Occurrence of Campylobacter jejuni in Pets Living with Human Patients Infected with C. jejuni

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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And more showing the source for re-infection and the rates for pet infection plus caveats.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417317/

Perhaps if attention were paid to the number of pet owners who are affected annually we may find simply that there is a correlation of some significance. The opportunity to blame illness on someone elses cooking rather than intimate contact with pets may be obscuring the real figures.

Perhaps British people do cook chicken adequately most of the time and destroy the campylobactor. From a 2013 paper:
” Dog, particularly puppy, owners were at increased risk of infection with pet-associated STs. In 2/68 cases vs. 0.134/68 expected by chance, a pet and its owner were infected with an identical ST (ST45, ST658). Although common sources of infection and directionality of transmission between pets and humans were unknown, dog ownership significantly increased the risk for pet-associated human C. jejuni/coli infection and isolation of identical strains in humans and their pets occurred significantly more often than expected.”

Profile photo of alfa
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Thanks for the links dieseltaylor. It led to some interesting reading.

It seems Campylobacter is prevalent in many animals and birds. The big question for me is whether it has always been naturally occurring in some species or whether it is silently species hopping and spreading? Some species get sick whereas others are just carriers.

It does make a good case for keeping moggies on their own property and dog owners picking up their pets poop.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Irrespective of the source – poultry, cats, dogs and other animals – campylobacter infection is generally transmitted by eating food, water or other drink contaminated by faeces carrying the bacteria. Nevertheless, chicken an other poultry is seen as the main cause of infection in humans.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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OK I have made an error! There are two separate reports available. Whether this has always been the case I have not checked. Anyway the extra figures help to flesh out the figures. I am not quite clear whether the laboratory figures are separated from the doctors figures which are broken down by Health area

“Laboratories in England have a statutory duty to notify Public Health England of the
identification of the following causative agents:”

The NOID;s report shows what has been reported by Doctors and also there is another report from Laboratories with their figures. These show a weekly total of between 1130 to 1660 cases in one type, which is interesting variation,. over the last few weeks.

CAMPYLOBACTER
CAMPYLOBACTER COLI
29
31
17
21
20
29
CAMPYLOBACTER FETUS

2

CAMPYLOBACTER JEJUNI
213
228
164
195
166
264
CAMPYLOBACTER LARI
2

CAMPYLOBACTER OTHER
NAMED
1

CAMPYLOBACTER SP
1659
1422
1381
1151
1131
1388

Salmonella runs at 300 plus a week..

Profile photo of malcolm r
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The FSA have a research project contracted to the NFU “On-farm campylobacter testing involving independent broiler farms” Brief infoemation can be found at: https://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/foodborneillness/b14programme/b14projlist/fs101123/fs101123
What bothers me about this is not the laudable intent (to monitor independent flocks and hope to find “which factors influence colonisation” ) but that if campylobacter is a serious problem:
1. That this scheme is voluntary – I would have thought all producers should be compelled to supply flock samples, or have samples independently taken.
2. It seems a bit of a casual approach
3. It is contracted to the NFU – in a sense the farmers policing themselves.

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It is encouraging that farmers police themselves but I very much agree on the need for testing all producers and that this needs to be proper independent testing.

While on holiday recently I was introduced to a couple who have a large farm that produces a very large number of free range eggs, though they have no broilers. I was very impressed to learn how much they knew about campylobacter problem and was even told which universities and research institutes have BBSCR-funded research projects.

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On the future of food , and feeding the planet, here is an example of how not to do it. That is if you do not wish to poison fisheries and release large amounts of gas into the atmosphere.

motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/08/how-midwests-corn-farms-are-cooking-planet

” I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how fertilizer from the Midwest’s big corn farms seeps into streams and causes trouble—fouling water supplies in Columbus, Toledo, Des Moines, and 60 other towns in Iowa, and generating a Connecticut-sized dead zone at the heart of the continental United States’ most productive fishery, the Gulf of Mexico. (Farms in the region also plant soybeans, but corn is by far the bigger fertilizer user.) But there’s another way the Corn Belt’s fertilizer habit damages a common resource: by releasing nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas with nearly 300 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.”