Aussies getting the thermometer message; when will the Brits?

ABC News Australia reports that chicken is Australia’s favorite meat.

chicken.bbq.thermometerThe story goes with the just-cook-it-approach and ignores cross-contamination (isn’t there a better term? I say be the bug, but there’s lots of marketing geniuses out there), but at least Dr Duncan Craig, the principal microbiologist with Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), says, “It’s about making sure that the center of the poultry meat gets up to a high enough temperature that would kill off the Campylobacter. So the advice that we put out is that the temperature should be up around 75 degrees [on the inside],” Craig says.

The best way to test whether poultry has been cooked to the right temperature is to use a meat thermometer; Craig says this is especially the case when you’re cooking a large bird such as a turkey.

“I was a skeptic but I use one at home and it actually is really quite effective, and on the converse it saves you from over cooking the poultry, just as much as making sure it’s cooked properly,” Craig says.

Someone’s been reading my soundbites – or not – but it’s gratifying to see the Aussies gravitate towards evidence-based advice, rather than what the Brits offer up: juices run clear and piping hot.

barfblog.Stick It InIn the past, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand has found 84 per cent of chicken carcasses tested positive to Campylobacter (22 per cent tested positive to salmonella, another common cause of food poisoning).

Regarding cross-contamination, Dr. Craig says, “I’ve rescued a number of mates who have brought out the plate of marinated chicken skewers and popped them on the barbie. They then cook them to within an inch of their life and go to put them back on the plate, which had the raw chicken meat and the marinade on it.”

UK supermarkets named and shamed over Campylobacter on chicken contamination

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the cumulative results from the first two quarters of its year-long survey of campylobacter on fresh chickens.

FunkyChickenHiIndividual results by major retailer have also been published.

Retailers aren’t happy.

One of the companies that has helped develop a way to flash freeze the surface of birds to kill campylobacter bacteria after slaughter, Bernard Matthews, said that retailers had been resistant to the extra cost, which is about 4-5p per bird.

However, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Asda and Sainsbury’s all told the Guardian they were supporting the trials of technology which rapidly chills or steams the surface of a chicken to significantly reduce levels of campylobacter.

Tesco said it would be helping to fund a full-scale trial of rapid chill technology with one of its suppliers from January to test feasibility on a commercial scale.

Andrew Large, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, which represents the largest producers and processors, said the industry was focusing on about 10 measures that looked promising, but he warned that there was “no silver bullet” to end campylobacter contamination.

The results to date show:

18% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter above the highest level of contamination

70% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter

6% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter with only one sample at the highest level of contamination (>1,000 cfu/g)

chicken* Above 1,000 colony forming units per gram (>1,000 cfu/g). These units indicate the degree of contamination on each sample.

In total, 1,995 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens have now been tested, with packaging also tested for most of these samples. Data show variations between retailers but none are meeting the end-of-production target for reducing campylobacter.

This 12-month survey, running from February 2014 to February 2015, will test 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers.

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. Poultry is the source of the majority of these cases.

But-just-cook-it doesn’t cut it and fails to account for cross-contamination.

In response, a number of retailers have introduced ‘roast in the bag’ chickens which help limit cross-contamination by minimizing the handling of the raw chicken in the home.

The FSA advises that the data for individual retailers have to be interpreted carefully. Confidence intervals are given for each retailer and the ‘others’ category. These show the likely range of the results allowing for the number of samples taken.

At this half-way stage in the survey the results show, taking the confidence intervals into account, that Tesco is the only one of the main retailers which has a lower incidence of chicken contaminated with campylobacter at the highest level (>1,000 cfu/g), compared to the industry average. Asda is the only main retailer which has a higher incidence of chicken that is contaminated by campylobacter at the highest level, compared to the industry average. However, the results suggest that none of the retailers is achieving the joint industry end-of-production target for reducing campylobacter.

chicken.thermAnd what FSA chicken advice would be complete without a recommendation to  “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.”

This is ridiculous advice from a supposedly science-based agency: use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

Meanwhile, The Guardian revealed this week that Tim Smith, the former boss of the FSA who left the regulator to become a director of Tesco, is said to have contacted a senior official in the Department of Health in June to warn that the FSA’s plans could provoke a major food scare, in an apparent breach of the terms approved by David Cameron for his move to industry.

And Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at London’s City University, told The Guardian the results are schocking and that “public should refuse to buy poultry until this is sorted out. This is a public health scandal easily on a par to those of the 1980s and 1990s and reminds me of the outrage over food adulteration and contamination in the mid 19th century. Have we really sunk back to that level?”

Dear British public, be outraged, act, withhold your money until you can have confidence in what you consume. This may not be orthodox public health strategy but it is definitely what history shows works when standards are as dire as these results show them to be.

Maybe cook from frozen, using a thermometer to verify safety? Campylobacter exploits chicken juice to flourish

A study from the Institute of Food Research has shown that Campylobacter’s persistence in food processing sites and the kitchen is boosted by ‘chicken juice.’

raw-chicken-bacteria-537x357Organic matter exuding from chicken carcasses, “chicken juice”, provides these bacteria with the perfect environment to persist in the food chain. This emphasises the importance of cleaning surfaces in food preparation, and may lead to more effective ways of cleaning that can reduce the incidence of Campylobacter.

The study was led by Helen Brown, a PhD student supervised by Dr Arnoud van Vliet at IFR, which is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Helen’s PhD studentship is co-funded by an industrial partner, Campden BRI.

The researchers collected the liquids produced from defrosting chickens, and found that this helped Campylobacter attach to surfaces and subsequently form biofilms. Biofilms are specialised structures some bacteria form on surfaces that protect them from threats from the environment.

“We have discovered that this increase in biofilm formation was due to chicken juice coating the surfaces we used with a protein-rich film,” said Helen Brown. “This film then makes it much easier for the Campylobacter bacteria to attach to the surface, and it provides them with an additional rich food source.”

Campylobacter aren’t particularly hardy bacteria, so one area of research has been to understand exactly how they manage to survive outside of their usual habitat, the intestinal tract of poultry. They are sensitive to oxygen, but during biofilm formation the bacteria protect themselves with a layer of slime. This also makes them more resistant to antimicrobials and disinfection treatments

Understanding this and how Campylobacter persists in the food production process will help efforts to reduce the high percentage of chickens that reach consumers contaminated with the bacteria. Although thorough cooking kills off the bacteria, around 500,000 people suffer from Campylobacter food poisoning each year in the UK. Reducing this number, and the amount of infected chicken on supermarket shelves, is now the number one priority of the Food Standards Agency.

“This study highlights the importance of thorough cleaning of food preparation surfaces to limit the potential of bacteria to form biofilms,” said Helen.

 Chicken juice enhances surface attachment and biofilm formation of Campylobacter jejuni

05.sep.14

Appl. Environ. Microbiol. November 2014 vol. 80 no. 22 7053-7060

Helen L. Brown, Mark Reuter, Louise J. Salt, Kathryn L. Cross, Roy P. Betts and Arnoud H. M. van Vliet; M. W. Griffiths, Editor

http://aem.asm.org/content/80/22/7053

Abstract

The bacterial pathogen Campylobacter jejuni is primarily transmitted via the consumption of contaminated foodstuffs, especially poultry meat. In food processing environments, C. jejuni is required to survive a multitude of stresses and requires the use of specific survival mechanisms, such as biofilms. An initial step in biofilm formation is bacterial attachment to a surface. Here, we investigated the effects of a chicken meat exudate (chicken juice) on C. jejuni surface attachment and biofilm formation. Supplementation of brucella broth with ≥5% chicken juice resulted in increased biofilm formation on glass, polystyrene, and stainless steel surfaces with four C. jejuni isolates and one C. coli isolate in both microaerobic and aerobic conditions. When incubated with chicken juice, C. jejuni was both able to grow and form biofilms in static cultures in aerobic conditions. Electron microscopy showed that C. jejuni cells were associated with chicken juice particulates attached to the abiotic surface rather than the surface itself. This suggests that chicken juice contributes to C. jejuni biofilm formation by covering and conditioning the abiotic surface and is a source of nutrients. Chicken juice was able to complement the reduction in biofilm formation of an aflagellated mutant of C. jejuni, indicating that chicken juice may support food chain transmission of isolates with lowered motility. We provide here a useful model for studying the interaction of C. jejuni biofilms in food chain-relevant conditions and also show a possible mechanism for C. jejuni cell attachment and biofilm initiation on abiotic surfaces within the food chain. 

UK food stores flock to roast-in-the-bag chickens

It’s the one recipe to which even rudimentary cooks like to add their unique touches – perhaps a herby garnish or a few strips of bacon.

roast.chicken.june.10But it seems the days of roast chicken prepared in the distinctive way that your family has always enjoyed it may be numbered (the bird, right, was cooked to excess of 165F before serving).

Supermarkets are, according to Valerie Ellliot of the Daily Mail, urging shoppers to buy chickens in sealed ready- to-roast bags, amid fears that people are no longer able to maintain basic kitchen hygiene.

The aim is to reduce the number of campylobacter food-poisoning cases caused by handling fresh birds.

Supermarkets are increasingly promoting chickens in roast bags that are opened only after cooking. There is no human contact with raw skin and a lower risk of poultry juices spreading bugs. In most cases, they are marginally more expensive – Tesco charges £6 for a 3.3lb bagged version against £5 for a plain chicken.

Asda launched roast-in-bag flavoured chickens in September last year. Six million have been sold, and they now make up 30 per cent of all its chicken sales. A turkey crown in a bag will be on sale for Christmas.

Marks and Spencer now sells two thirds of its chickens in bags and they are also sold at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Aldi, while Morrisons and Lidl intend to introduce them.

Restaurateur Mark Hix, who specialises in British cuisine, said: ‘I don’t think people should buy chickens in bags. That removes all the pleasure of cooking. Good hygiene is not difficult.’

cooked.chickenGood hygiene is difficult – it requires people to pay attention.

But it can be done. Just stop saying it’s simple.

Tom Parker Bowles, Mail on Sunday food critic asked, “has it really come to this? A nation so lacking in basic common sense that we’re not to be trusted to wash our own hands? A country so obsessed with ease and convenience that the birds we put in our ovens must be sanitized and shoved in a plastic bag?

“I’ve been cooking roast chicken for more than 20 years and have never once caught any nefarious bug. We all know that raw chicken is to be treated with care: separate chopping board, hands scrubbed with soap and all the rest.”

Yes, the ole’ I’ve-been-doing-it-this-way-all-my-life-and-never-got-sick line.

But people are getting sick.

A roast chicken is the cornerstone of any decent cook’s repertoire. I’m making one tonight, stuffed with 30 cloves of garlic, rosemary, sage, and other stuff, and then get to make stock for a couple of days (I’ve got a bunch of mushrooms to use, so I see a mushroom soup in the near future.

Maybe in addition to cooking food in plastic, which may have a role, there is a learning moment to talk about the prevalence of dangerous bugs and how they can best be controlled. And that involves using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, not pedantic piping hot advice.

Ciprofloxacin resistant Campylobacter in broiler chicken in Canada

This case study outlines the patterns of ciprofloxacin resistance in Campylobacter isolated from retail chicken meat in Canada. Campylobacter is the third most common cause of foodborne enteric illness in Canada; it usually causes a self-limited illness, but in some cases antimicrobials may be indicated. Ciprofloxacin (a fluoroquinolone) is an antimicrobial used to treat a number of infections in humans; other fluoroquinolones are used both therapeutically and prophylactically in livestock animals, including broiler chickens.

ab.retail.cdn.foodThe Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS) has been testing retail chicken meat samples across Canada for the presence of Campylobacter and for resistant strains since 2003. At the end of 2010, CIPARS documented that retail chicken meat samples in Canada contaminated with Campylobacter ranged from 36% in the Maritimes to 42% in British Columbia. Furthermore, levels of ciprofloxacin-resistant Campylobacter varied across the country, with higher percentages in British Columbia (17% in 2010) and Saskatchewan (11%), in comparison with lower percentages in Ontario (5%), Québec (2%), and the Maritimes (4%). In 2011 and 2012, resistance declined in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, but began to rise in Québec and Ontario. Recently, the Canadian poultry industry developed a policy to eliminate the preventive use of third generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones in broiler chickens (meat chickens) and broiler breeder chickens (chickens that produce the eggs that will become the broilers).

CIPARS will continue to monitor trends in antimicrobial use and resistance following this industry intervention. By following good food preparation and hygiene practices, Canadians can reduce the risks of developing a Campylobacter infection (resistant or susceptible) from retail chicken.

Public Health Agency of Canada, CCDR, Volume 40 S-2

A. Agunos, D. Léger, B. Avery, E. Parmley, A. Deckert, C. Carson

R. Reid-Smith, R. Irwin

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/ccdr-rmtc/14vol40/dr-rm40s-2/dr-rm40s-2-cs-ec-eng.php

(This is not satire) 363 sickened in multistate outbreak of human Salmonella infections linked to live poultry in backyard flocks (final update)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports:

  • This outbreak appears to be over. However, live poultry, including those kept in backyard flocks, remain an important cause of human Salmonella infections in the United States. More information about Salmonella from live poultry and the steps people can take to reduce their risk of infection is available.
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA total of 363 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport, or Salmonella Hadar were reported from 43 states and Puerto Rico.

o   33% of ill persons were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.

  • Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback findings linked this outbreak of human Salmonella infections to contact with chicks, ducklings, and other live poultry from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio.

o   73% of ill people reported contact with live poultry in the week before their illness began.

  • Findings of multiple traceback investigations of live baby poultry from homes of ill persons identified Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio as the source of chicks and ducklings.

o   This is the same mail-order hatchery that has been associated with multiple outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to live poultry in past years, including in 2012 and 2013.

  • CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory conducted antibiotic resistance testing on Salmonella isolates collected from 11 ill persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis or Newport. Of the 11 isolates tested:

o   Two (18%) were resistant to tetracycline.

o   Nine (82%) were susceptible to all antibiotics on the NARMS panel.

  • Mail-order hatcheries, agricultural feed stores, and others that sell or display chicks, ducklings, and other live poultry should provide health-related information to owners and potential purchasers of these birds prior to selling them. This should include information about the risk of acquiring a Salmonella infection from contact with live poultry.

chicken.south.parko   Read the advice to mail-order hatcheries and feed stores and others that sell or display live poultry.

  • Consumers who own live poultry should take steps to protect themselves:

o   Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where these birds live and roam.

o   Do not let live poultry inside the house.

o   Learn about additional recommendations to protect yourself and your family from Salmonella infections. These recommendations are important and apply to all live poultry, regardless of the age of the birds or where they were purchased.

Blame it on the (chicken) juice — enhances surface attachment and biofilm formation of Campylobacter

We were having dinner with friends Sunday night, and they do a Chinese-style cooking that is light and yummy, but I noticed a lot of cross-contamination going on during the prep (can someone please come up with a better name than cross-contaminaion, and more succinct than, dangerous bugs move around a lot).

icarly.chicken.cell.handsThe patron said, that’s why you cook it, and I said, just cook it doesn’t cut it, and explained why.

We may never be invited for dinner again.

The next day (another school holiday) the two 5-years-olds were with me for a few hours, so after a couple of hours at the park, I decided we would make two cakes — one gluten/dairy free, one traditional.

I don’t like cake but it is a part of my spring ritual of getting rid of spices that have accumulated for six years and, like Ikea furniture, crap that looked good at the store but awful at home.

The girls became involved in an extended discussion of Salmonella, eggs and cross-contamination.

They enjoyed the cake.

Brown et al. published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology that the bacterial pathogen Campylobacter jejuni is primarily transmitted via the consumption of contaminated foodstuffs, especially poultry meat. In food processing environments, C. jejuni is required to survive a multitude of stresses and requires the use of specific survival mechanisms, such as biofilms. An initial step in biofilm formation is bacterial attachment to a surface.

Here, we investigated the effects of a chicken meat exudate (chicken juice) on C. jejuni surface attachment and biofilm formation. Supplementation of brucella broth with ≥5% chicken juice resulted in increased biofilm formation on glass, polystyrene, and stainless steel surfaces with four C. jejuni isolates and one C. coli isolate in both microaerobic and aerobic conditions. When incubated with chicken juice, C. jejuni was both able to grow and form biofilms in static cultures in aerobic conditions. Electron microscopy showed that C. jejuni cells were associated with chicken juice particulates attached to the abiotic surface rather than the surface itself.

sorenne.doug.usa.today.jun.11This suggests that chicken juice contributes to C. jejuni biofilm formation by covering and conditioning the abiotic surface and is a source of nutrients. Chicken juice was able to complement the reduction in biofilm formation of an aflagellated mutant of C. jejuni, indicating that chicken juice may support food chain transmission of isolates with lowered motility. We provide here a useful model for studying the interaction of C. jejuni biofilms in food chain-relevant conditions and also show a possible mechanism for C. jejuni cell attachment and biofilm initiation on abiotic surfaces within the food chain.

Helen L. Brown, Mark Reuter, Louise J. Salt, Kathryn L. Cross, Roy P. Betts, and Arnoud H. M. van Vliet

http://aem.asm.org/content/80/22/7053.abstract?etocjejuni

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.’

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.

 

Campy chaos at UK chicken plants?

The chicken factories at the centre of revelations over food poisoning contamination were checked by UK Food Standards Agency inspectors on Friday, as sources reported that Tesco auditors had found failings during a surprise middle-of-the-night inspection at an abattoir in Wales.

chicken-0011This week’s Guardian investigation prompted emergency reviews by three of the UK’s leading supermarkets, and the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, intervened on Thursday to demand that the FSA investigate more thoroughly, just hours after the agency had said it was content that correct procedures had been followed.

Labour accused the government of presiding over a food scandal made possible because David Cameron had split responsibility for food policy between the FSA, the Department of Health, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and called on him to review the changes.

Undercover footage, photographic evidence and information from whistleblowers revealed how strict industry hygiene standards to prevent the contamination of chicken with the potentially deadly campylobacter bacterium can be flouted on the factory floor and in farms. Two-thirds of fresh chicken on sale in supermarkets is contaminated with the bug and 280,000 people a year are made sick by it.

The Guardian understands that Tesco auditors arrived unannounced at 4.30am last Friday at the Llangefni chicken processing site in Wales owned by the 2 Sisters group, after the Guardian had approached the retailer with a series of allegations about hygiene failings at this and another factory. The site supplies several leading supermarkets and fast food chains.

The alleged failings included repeated breakdowns that had led to feathers, guts and offal – high-risk material for the spread of campylobacter – piling up on the factory floor for hours while production continued. Sources also said water in scald tanks, through which birds pass before plucking, was not cleaned for three days. Whistleblowers and an undercover reporter said carcasses that had fallen on the floor at this site and another owned by the same company in Scunthorpe were sometimes recycled back on to the production line.

The company denied this, saying all carcasses from the floor were disposed of as waste. It also said it did not stop the slaughter line when the evisceration and defeathering blockages occurred because it had to consider the welfare of chickens waiting for slaughter. It said that the scald tank incident was isolated, had only lasted one day, and tests have confirmed that bacteria counts were acceptable.

Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer confirmed they were customers of the Welsh factory and had carried out inspections, with M&S auditors arriving unannounced last Wednesday. The Guardian understands the Scunthorpe factory has also been audited by retailers, and government inspectors arrived there on Friday.