U.K. aims to reduce Campylobacter incidence

by Keith Nunes
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LONDON — The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency, in conjunction with poultry processors and retailers, has announced new goals to reduce the incidence of Campylobacter on chicken. The new goal is to reduce the incidence of Campylobacter on chicken from 27% to 10% by 2015.

It is estimated that the pathogen makes more than 300,000 people ill and causes about 80 deaths every year in the U.K.

“The Food Standards Agency has identified tackling Campylobacter as its No. 1 food safety priority,” said Alison Gleadle, director of food hygiene at the F.S.A. “There are about 850 million chickens slaughtered in this country every year. This target is challenging but achievable. However, solutions need to be found at every stage of the food chain to stop this bug from spreading.

“The new target will underpin all of our joint work on reducing Campylobacter in chicken and allow us to measure the success of these interventions. We are working closely with the food industry to make chicken as safe to eat as possible.”

Options under consideration to reduce Campylobacter levels in meat processing facilities include better sanitation efforts on farm, hot water treatment for carcasses, the use of electrolyzed water, and antimicrobial washes such as lactic acid. Such washes would require approval from Europe, according to the F.S.A.

Other options include pre-packed chicken sold at retail to be packaged using modified atmosphere packaging, which raises the levels of oxygen inside packages to slow the rate at which pathogens multiply. In addition, better leak-proof packaging may also help prevent the spread of the bacteria to other foods or surfaces in the kitchen.

“High levels of hygiene or biosecurity on U.K. farms have been successful in beating Salmonella in chickens, but it has proved not enough against Campylobacter,” said Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council. “Additional actions are being trialed in combination on farms, in the slaughterhouse, and in the distribution chain to reduce the levels of infection. We are confident that the outcomes of the Joint Action Plan, combined with new scientific knowledge expected from ongoing projects, will enable Campylobacter in chickens to be reduced in line with this challenging target.”

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