Posted: 01/11/2019

Work to be done on Campylobacter in indies

FSA tests have shown smaller retailers have failed to reduce the highest levels of the harmful bacteria in the last four year while supermarkets have improved

The Food Standards Agency has said it will continue to work with smaller slaughterhouses and independent retailers to reduce levels of harmful Campylobacter bacteria found on raw chicken, after its latest results showed they were lagging behind supermarkets in tackling it.

A data set and report, published by the Food Standards Agency in August, showed that the proportion of whole chickens contaminated with the highest level of Campylobacter – the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK – has decreased overall since 2014.

While supermarkets have shown significant progress during testing, chickens tested in “smaller retailers” had shown no decrease in levels on average.

The smaller retailers category includes butchers and farm shops, but an FSA spokesperson told FFD that consumers should ‘not necessarily” assume it was less safe to purchase chicken from independents.

The spokesperson said that supermarkets had been able to improve because they had been collaborating with larger slaughterhouses with the resources to adjust conditions. 

They added: “It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what interventions have been the most effective in achieving this. The slaughterhouses which supply smaller retailers tend to be small-to-medium processors, who may not be in the same financial position to implement more sophisticated interventions.”

Rob Copley, co-founder of Farmer Copleys Farm Shop in Yorkshire and chairman of the Farm Retail Association told FFD that there was no reason why smaller shops couldn’t match up to supermarkets on campylobacter.

“If you assume all the supermarkets have 5-star hygiene ratings, then 80% of smaller shops should too,” he said.

Echoing the FSA’s advice to retailers, Copley said farm shops need to start their prevention at the source.

“In the first instance, they need to be buying from a reputable or audited supplier,” he said. “And, in-store, its basic hygiene practice, a temperature check on delivery, and keep it separate in the fridge.”

Copley added that shops should also make sure customers know how to prepare chicken safely and this could be achieved by including cooking instructions on labels. 

Between August 2017 and July 2018, 1,769 samples of whole, UK-produced, fresh chicken were tested across the country on behalf of the FSA.

During the first four months, 1,044 chickens were sampled from all retailers. The FSA tested only minor retailers after this period, as it was agreed that the Top 9 retailers would publish results of their internal testing on their websites. 

This story appeared in the October-November issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

Read more of the latest news from Fine Food Digest here

Return to the top