A few pence on a portion of chicken will prevent illness, says industry expert

The food industry is not doing enough to prevent Campylobacter from fresh bought chicken getting into people’s homes, according to the UK’s leading food safety expert.

Dr. Lisa Ackerley, food safety consultant and deputy chair of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene, says that although the Food Standards Agency (FSA) latest official figures show a small decline in Campylobacter in raw supermarket chicken, there is not enough focus on tackling the risks of cross-contamination in the home.

In an article published this week by Environmental Health News, Dr. Ackerley says that Campylobacter is getting into people’s homes possibly as a result of handling contaminated chicken packaging during a shopping trip.

“Until progress has been made to reduce the levels of contamination of chickens and their packaging there will continue to be a very real threat of householders poisoning themselves,’ she said.

Dr. Ackerley’s comments followed reports that the FSA is considering introducing a corporate target to reduce the number of campylobacter infections by 100,000 within a year.  An FSA board paper due to be discussed later this month says chicken in the UK currently poses a ‘significant threat to human health in the UK’.

Dr. Ackerley adds: “because of the current high risk of householders having a contaminated chicken in their kitchen and because of the low infectious dose of the organism, if we want to reach this target for reduction of incidents, then I think it is time for clear and consistent messages to be given to householders”.

She also stated that the use of technologies such as antibacterial additives for equipment and packaging can reduce levels of Campylobacter in chicken products.

“This may add a few pence to a portion of chicken – but estimates referred to by the FSA put the cost of campylobacter in the UK at around £900m per year”

Campylobacter is present in nearly 60% of fresh shop-bought chickens and on 6% of outer packaging, according to the Food Standards Agency’s latest quarterly survey which was published in February.

The bacteria is the largest single cause of food-borne illness in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases resulting in around 110 deaths every year.

Read the full online Environmental Health News article.

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