In this guest post, Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency, looks at what you, and the food industry, can do to keep your family safe from Campylobacter on raw poultry.
Here at the Food Standards Agency we’re launching the Chicken Challenge – a call for consumers to remember the little things they should do to keep their family safe from Campylobacter on raw poultry. People will always need to take care when handling and cooking raw chicken, and a ‘challenge’ is a neat way to get us all to remember.
More Campylobacter cases in summer
Cases of Campylobacter food poisoning increase in warmer weather, roughly from this month to September. And we’re not just talking about a dodgy tummy – it’s painful and can lead to serious long-term health problems, even death.
We want to cut the number of cases of foodborne Campylobacteriosis in half by the end of 2015 and then keep going until Campylobacter in chicken has no real effect on human health.
While we want the public to adopt safe cooking practices, it’s the industry that profits from selling chicken and it should ensure they’re safe to eat, which is why we welcome the Which? campaign for Safe Chicken.
The industry has agreed with us to reduce levels of Campylobacter on chickens at the end of the factory process by the end of 2015. This alone would give the 50% reduction we’re all looking for.
FSA tests for Campylobacter in chickens
At the end of this month, we’ll publish the latest results of our tests to establish contamination levels. We’ve been testing thousands of chickens and publishing the results every quarter. Work will continue into 2016.
In our most recent test, 19% of chickens tested positive for Campylobacter within the very highest level of contamination. The target is to reduce that to less than 10% by the end of the year.
Supermarkets have just six months to meet their targets
So far, M&S is the only retailer to publish what it has done to reduce Campylobacter on its chickens. The first data, in February showed a very significant fall in number of the most highly contaminated birds.
This shows it’s possible to achieve the target. So, I’m reminding UK retailers, producers and farmers they have six months left to meet their commitment to reduce the numbers of the most highly contaminated chickens sold in the UK, and halve the number of people who get ill as a result.
If everyone lives up to their promises, this can happen.
We’re suggesting that next time you buy a chicken, ask your supermarket or butcher what they’re doing to reduce Campylobacter. Let us know what answer you get.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency. All opinions expressed here are Catherine’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.