Infectious Diseases 2017

Infectious Diseases 2017

Britain: retailers to self-report chicken Campylobacter results

22 September, 2017

The Food Standards Agency will stop monitoring anf publishing supermarkets selling chicken contaminated with Campylobacter. The decision by the FSA came after pressure from big stores. The official watchdog started publishing details on the proportion of chickens contaminated with campylobacter in 2014. The move was strongly resisted by supermarkets, which tried to block it with appeals to ministers amid concerns that it would hit sales. But the publication of figures went ahead and revealed that 78 per cent of chickens sold by the major supermarkets carried the bug. A total of 20 per cent were contaminated at a high level, making them a particular risk to the public. The tactic shamed the stores into cleaning up farms and changing chicken processing to reduce contamination. At the same time, retailers introduced ‘roast in the bag’ packs to protect customers. The net effect has been to reduce the proportion of birds carrying contamination to around 50 per cent, and those highly contaminated to 5 per cent. These falls appear to have been instrumental in a reduction of around 100,000 a year in the number of campylobacter food poisoning cases in humans. But now, after pressure from supermarkets and their trade body, the British Retail Consortium, the FSA has decided to stop publishing the contamination levels of the nine biggest retailers. Instead, it has reached an agreement with the BRC for supermarkets to publish a limited set of their own figures. Each store will report only the proportion of chickens that carry the highest level of contamination, not the higher figure showing overall contamination. The BRC will report the general level of contamination as an average across the industry once a year.