Probes launched into meat hygiene in UK

Probes launched into meat hygiene in UK

Thu Jul 24, 2014 9:12AM GMT

Three of Britain’s leading supermarkets have launched urgent probes into their chicken supplies after an investigative report in a major daily exposed a pattern of alleged hygiene violations in the country’s poultry industry.

Material in the form of footage secretly filmed, photographs and other information from whistleblowers have revealed how strict industry hygiene standards to prevent the contamination of chickens with the potentially deadly campylobacter bug have been ignored in factories as well as chicken farms, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Specific incidents identified last month include a factory floor flooded with chicken guts, in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then being returned to the production line and other practices in the production chain that increase the risk of the spread of the bacteria.

The evidence prompted Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer to launch emergency probes into their chicken sources over the past week.

The concern focuses on the bacteria campylobacter, which at the last count was present in two-thirds of British fresh chicken sold in the UK.

Although the bug is killed in thorough cooking, nearly 280,000 people in the UK get sick each year by it and 100 people are believed to die of it.

According to the report, contamination rates are known to have climbed over the past decade.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), however, decided on Wednesday to shelve its pledge to name and shame supermarkets and processors for their campylobacter rates.

The retreat, the report says, is due to pressure exerted by the poultry industry as well as interventions from government agencies.

The daily cited a source as saying they had been told that British Prime Minister David Cameron had “raised concerns about the communication of the results, fearing that they could provoke a food scare similar to that triggered when the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie warned that most of British eggs were contaminated with salmonella in 1988.”

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