More work needs to be done to reduce campylobacter levels in chicken

1 June, 2015
Stuart Kelly

Yesterday the Food Standard Agency (FSA) released the findings of a year-long study into campylobacter levels in store-bought chicken. The results, 73% of chicken purchased tested positive for the dangerous food poisoning bug, were far from reassuring.

Of all the supermarkets involved it appears ASDA have the most work ahead of them in addressing the issue. Just over 80% of their sampled chicken had campylobacter traces on their skin. Worse still almost 30% displayed high levels of the bacteria.

Other major retailers didn’t fare much better in the study, with all of them failing to meet the FSA’s target of reducing high levels of contamination to 10% by 2015.

While the supermarkets have subsequently claimed that they are working hard to address the FSA’s fears, there’s a very real concern that not enough is being done by processors to ensure that they meet these expectations.

Working across the whole food and drink supply chain, our specialists can appreciate the pressures, time constraints and cost concerns of both processors and retailers.

While most suppliers undergo a number of audits against a range of internationally recognised standards and guidelines these often only go some way to addressing the issues being faced. It’s possible to pass an audit with flying colours on the day of an inspection, yet fail to meet its standards throughout the rest of the year.

Unannounced audits go some way to addressing this and help to encourage better day-to-day standards across the industry, yet there are more effective ways to drive change and improve food safety levels.

One way to successfully improve standards is to correctly engage with staff and ensure that they are aware of the consequences of poor food safety and low hygiene levels.

Changing attitudes and developing a strong workplace food safety culture can bring lasting benefits to food manufacturers. More importantly perhaps, it can also help protect the public.

Each year an estimated 280,000 people suffer from food poisoning caused by the bacteria. Most sufferers will endure a few days of stomach cramps, sickness and diarrhoea. However, in severe cases the illness can be responsible for fatalities and severe long term health issues.

Staff at processing and cutting plants can often feel distant from consumers and subsequently standards can slacken. Proper food safety training, which reinforces the consequences of bad practices can really help address this.

The stark reality is that campylobacter can kill and every effort needs to be made to ensure that manufacturers and retailers do everything in their power to ensure the chicken they process and sell is as safe as possible for consumption.

Awareness of this from staff at all levels across the industry can go a long way to ensuring the FSA’s 2015 standards are met. However, this will only be achieved through proper training and accountability from all involved.

To find out more about how Acoura can improve staff performance and food safety levels contact us today on 0330 024 0255.

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