UK’s FSA was supposed to be independent; agrees to name stores that sell chicken contaminated with campy

The food safety watchdog is to name and shame supermarkets that sell chicken contaminated with a dangerous food-poisoning bug after the scandal was exposed by the Daily Mail.

borat.chickenThe UK Food Standards Agency has been testing chicken sold in the high street for campylobacter, which is associated with 100 deaths a year and 280,000 food-poisoning cases.

In August, officials said the names of shops involved should be kept secret until at least next summer following lobbying from stores, producers and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs over fears the news would damage the industry.

But following pressure from the Mail, academics and consumer groups, it has agreed to identify them.

The results will reveal which of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, the Co-op, Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer has the highest contamination levels.

The FSA began quarterly surveys of chicken sold on the high street in February to establish the levels of campylobacter. The first revealed that 59 per cent of 853 birds tested positive for the bug.

Some 16 per cent of the roasting birds tested positive for the highest level of contamination.

roast.chicken.june.10One in 20 sealed packs of chicken were even contaminated on the outside, suggesting that simply picking them up created a risk.

The FSA said it would be unfair to name the stores because its sample sizes were small and the public would not understand the results.

This from the same agency that thinks the public is too stupid to use a meat thermometer, so goes with piping hot.

Erik Millstone, professor of science policy at the University of Sussex, said: ‘The FSA was supposed to be independent of commercial and political pressures. Recent events show that in practice the FSA was blown off course by industrial and political pressures.’

45 sick from Campylobacter linked to raw milk in Utah

Utah public health officials are investigating a few cases of sickness associated with raw or unpasteurized milk.

A few? Is there that many people in Utah?

colbert.raw.milkSo far, 45 cases of Campylobacter infection have been confirmed in people who had raw milk in the week they got sick.

Officials said the illness has been reported in Cache, Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber counties.

Two cases have also been confirmed in California and Idaho.

The first case of the infection was reported May 9.

The Utah Dept. of Health said all 45 cases are linked to raw milk or cream purchased at Ropelato Dairy in Weber County.

The Utah Dept. of Agriculture suspended the dairy’s license to sell raw milk on Aug. 4 after several tests were positive for Campylobacter.

Larry Lewis with the UDAF said the dairy has been very cooperative in working with the inspectors and it will be allowed to sell raw milk again as soon as it consistently passes safety tests.

Careful with that fondue: determinants of the campylobacteriosis winter peak in Switzerland

Campylobacteriosis is the most frequently reported food borne infection in Switzerland. We investigated determinants of infections and illness experience in wintertime. A case–control study was conducted in Switzerland between December 2012 and February 2013. Cases were recruited among laboratory-confirmed campylobacteriosis patients. Population-based controls were matched according to age group, sex and canton of residence. We determined risk factors associated with campylobacteriosis, and help seeking behaviour and illness perception.

fondueThe multivariable analysis identified two factors associated with an increased risk for campylobacteriosis: consumption of meat fondue (matched odds ratio [mOR] 4.0, 95 % confidence interval [CI] 2.3–7.1) and travelling abroad (mOR 2.7, 95 % CI 1.1–6.4). Univariable analysis among meat fondue consumers revealed chicken as the type of meat with the highest risk of disease (mOR 3.8, 95 % CI 1.1–13.5). Most frequently reported signs and symptoms among patients were diarrhoea (98 %), abdominal pain (81 %), fever (66 %), nausea (44 %) and vomiting (34 %). The median perceived disease severity was 8 on a 1-to-10 rating scale. Patients reported a median duration of illness of 7 days and 14 % were hospitalised. Meat fondues, mostly “Fondue chinoise”, traditionally consumed during the festive season in Switzerland, are the major driver of the epidemic campylobacteriosis peak in wintertime. At these meals, individual handling and consumption of chicken meat may play an important role in disease transmission. Laboratory-confirmed patients are severely ill and hospitalisation rate is considerable. Public health measures such as decontamination of chicken meat and improved food handling behaviour at the individual level are urgently needed.

European Journal of Epidemiology

Philipp Justus Bless, Claudia Schmutz, Kathrin Suter, Marianne Jost, Jan Hattendorf, Mirjam Mäusezahl-Feuz and Daniel Mäusezahl

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10654-014-9917-0/fulltext.html#Fig3

46 sickened: Campylobacter and roast turkey or jus, Nov. 2013

In England, several recent campylobacter outbreaks have been associated with poultry liver consumption. Following a lunch event in a hotel in Surrey in November 2013 where chicken liver parfait was served, guests reported having gastrointestinal symptoms.

gravy-intro-612A retrospective cohort study showed 46 of 138 guests became unwell, with a median incubation period of two days and for 11 cases campylobacter infection was laboratory confirmed. Food item analysis identified an association between illness and consumption of roast turkey (aOR=3.02 p=0.041) or jus (aOR=3.55 p=0.045), but not with chicken liver parfait (OR=0.39 p=0.405). The environmental risk assessment did not identify non-compliance with standard food practice guidelines.

This study presents a point-source outbreak of campylobacter with a high attack rate and epidemiological analysis results show that the jus or roast turkey was the likely source of infection although this could not be confirmed by the environmental assessment. Consuming the chicken liver dish was not a risk factor for developing symptoms as was initially hypothesised. Prior knowledge on the association between poultry liver food items and campylobacter outbreaks should not overly influence an outbreak investigation to ensure the true aetiology is identified and on-going public health risk is minimised.

PLOS

Suzan Trienekens, Charlotte Anderson, Jennifer Duffy, Rachel Gill, Lisa Harvey-Vince, Helen Jones, Piers Mook, Chikwe Ihekweazu, Ishani Kar-Purkayastha

http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/dont-count-your-chicken-livers-an-outbreak-of-campylobacter-sp-not-associated-with-chicken-liver-parfait-england-november-2013/

Roast-in-bag chicken is lower risk says poultry company

Does roast-in-bag chicken chicken cut Campylobacter risks? A UK poultry business recently investigated by the Guardian for hygiene issues says it does.

Quoted in The Grocer, a Faccenda Foods official says by using their no-handle cook-directly-in-the-bag chicken consumers are safer.yourfile

“There is no need for consumers to handle food, which improves food safety at home and significantly reduces the risk from campylobacter,” said MD Andy Dawkins, who added the bag reduced the risk of cross-contamination from work surfaces or cutting boards.

In the week the FSA announced the first batch of quarterly results from its 12-month campylobacter survey, Faccenda said “unprecedented demand” had prompted it to ramp up development of roast-in-bag chicken. By the end of the year, it plans to expand the format – launched last September in Asda with seven flavoured whole chickens – into non-flavoured birds.

Responding to this week’s FSA results – which found campylobacter in 59% of fresh shop-bought chickens and on the outside of the packaging of 4% of birds – Dawkins said Faccenda would continue to invest to address the issue.

Campy on the outside of packaging could be problem for cross-contamination and I want to see some data for the claims that consumers handle these roast-in-bag products safer. Folks often don’t really know what people do with their products.

 

And don’t lick the packaging: 59% of poultry positive for Campylobacter in UK

The Food Standards Agency has today published the first set of quarterly results from a new survey of Campylobacter on fresh shop-bought chickens.

cooked.chickenThe results show 59% of birds tested positive for the presence of Campylobacter. In 4% of samples Campylobacter was identified on the outside of the packaging.

Campylobacter is killed by thorough cooking, however, it is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year.

The 12-month survey, running from February 2014 to February 2015, is looking at the prevalence and levels of Campylobacter contamination on fresh whole chilled chickens and their packaging. The survey will test 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers. Today’s results are for the first quarter and represent 853 samples.

*Cook chicken thoroughly – Make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut in to the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.

Steaming hot has apparently replaced piping hot. I wonder how many salaries were involved in that decision. Color is a lousy indicator of safety (the chicken, upper right, is microbiologically safe). Use a thermometer and stick it in.

barfblog.Stick It In

100 sick from Campylobacter in Iceland over past year

It wasn’t virtual, it was real (messy).

campy.chickenThe Directorate of Health says it has had to deal with a virtual explosion of diarrhea cases caused by Campylobacter.

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) said that they could not definitively draw a connection between Icelandic chickens and the outbreak, nor could they rule it out. They pointed out that according to their findings, the incidence of Campylobacter in chickens has not significantly spiked upwards.

The Directorate of Health cautions the public to cook all meat thoroughly and to keep surfaces and hands clean during and after cooking, as well as to use clean water.

Open letter to the FSA on the publication of Campylobacter survey results

Richard Lloyd of Which? a UK consumer organization, writes to the UK Food Standards Agency to say:

chicken.thermI am writing to express our grave concern about the proposal being put to the FSA Board to withhold information about the levels of the deadly food poisoning bacteria Campylobacter in supermarket chickens. Campylobacter is a major public health issue. 72,000 people were reported to have suffered Campylobacter food poisoning last year and it kills an estimated 100 people every year.

As you know, the main source for the bacteria is in raw chicken which is why the FSA decided to undertake testing across supermarkets, butchers and convenience stores and publish the results on a quarterly basis with information by retailer and processor.

The publication of the performance of each retailer is in the public interest. The FSA should not sit on this survey data which it initially intended to publish in full.

The FSA was set up because of concerns about commercial and political interference in decisions about food safety. It is with great regret that it has become necessary to remind you of your role to put consumers first, be independent and operate transparently.

At your board meeting today, I urge you to reject the proposal to withhold this information and instead to publish the results in full on a quarterly basis in order to provide consumers with this important information and help to drive up standards.

Just market food safety at retail, government is hopeless: FSA plan to name and shame supermarkets selling Campylobacter chicken ditched after pressure from retailers

Maybe there’s something lost in translation; I’m barely starting to understand Australian.

chickenBut if I read this right, the piping hot UK Food Standards Agency has put retail over public health after scrapping plans to regularly name and shame supermarkets selling chicken contaminated with Campylobacter.

Lots of chuckles next time FSA proclaims they are a science-based agency.

According to the Daily Mail, FSA had promised to carry out regular surveys of chicken sold on the high street and publish the results, including the names of the stores, every three months.

The idea was that the public naming and shaming exercise would put pressure on the stores to clean up their chicken and reduce the food poisoning risk to customers.

However, the officials at the watchdog now want to scrap this idea and instead only publish data on the number of birds that are contaminated without identifying the stores involved.

The move has been condemned by a leading academic, who suggested it was driven by pressure from the industry and Government departments, who are keen support supermarkets, farmers and processors.

chicken.thermThe changes represent a major victory for the commercial interests of the big retailers, putting concerns for their sales and profits ahead of consumer safety and their right to know what they are eating.

The fact that the supermarkets have managed to water down the scheme is just the latest evidence as to how lobbying by big business has driven a change in official policy on food and health issues.

Similar lobbying killed off a plan for a blanket ban on junk food snacks and drinks from displays around supermarket check-outs.

The FSA recently revealed that more than one million people are falling victim to food poisoning every year with supermarket chicken named as the greatest threat.

Campylobacter, which is most often found on raw chicken, is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the country.

An official study published in 2009 revealed that two in three of all fresh chicken on shelves was contaminated with campylobacter. More than one in four – 27 per cent – were classed as being highly contaminated.

Despite the fact the FSA has asked supermarkets and farmers to make combatting campylobacter a top priority, the situation appears to have shown no improvement since then.

An FSA paper on the food poisoning caused by campylobacter warned: ‘In addition to the attendant economic costs, cases cause inconvenience, discomfort and misery to those who become infected and a small proportion of cases result in death or long-term consequences, such as reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and Guillain-Barré syndrome, the latter of which affects the peripheral nervous system.’

Despite the clear threat, the FSA’s executives are now asking its board to redraw the rules for its surveys to ensure the stores selling contaminated chicken are not identified in its quarterly results.

A paper prepared by officials states this is in response to ‘legitimate concerns expressed by the industry and other government departments’. The references to other departments relates to the food and farming department, DEFRA, which sees itself as a champion of British farmers, including those producing chicken.

The FSA paper states: ‘In the last update to the Board in March 2014 it was stated that the FSA intended to release the full results, including the names of the retailers and processors, of testing of around 1,000 samples every 3 months during the survey, with the first results published around June/July 2014.’

However, it says it has now decided to change this approach because there is a risk the results will be incomplete and misleading and it would – in some way – be unfair to the stores.

The FSA said: ‘One of the drawbacks of this approach is that no interpretation can properly be placed on interim raw data until the full year’s sampling is complete and fully analysed.

The watchdog’s board is being asked to approve this new approach at a meeting tomorrow.

Erik Millstone, the Professor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex, condemned the move to let the supermarkets off the hook.

Barbecue alert after spike in UK Campylobacter food poisoning

I’m tired of the summer BBQ rhetoric. I lived in Canada and BBQed throughout the winter.

The risk isn’t that more people are BBQing, it’s that livestock have higher levels of pathogens in warmer weather.

ben-newBut way to blame consumers.

More than 1,000 people have become ill with vomiting and diarrhea in five weeks – up 27 per cent on the average figure for the same period over the past three years.

Experts are reminding barbecue lovers about the importance of handling and cooking chicken properly following the surge in illness cause by the campylobacter bacteria.

These UK experts don’t know shit; probably the same ones who say cook until piping hot.

NHS Scotland laboratories have confirmed a total of 1,073 infections with Campylobacter but, as not all patients will have contacted the health service for advice, the actual number of people who have developed symptoms is likely to be higher.