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.

Market food safety at retail; Foster Farms finally recalls some chicken 16 months after first Salmonella outbreak

Two weeks ago, Foster Farms poultry producers announced they’d dramatically lowered levels of salmonella in chicken parts — and invested $75 million to do it.

chicken.south.parkNow, Foster Farms of Fresno, Calif., is recalling an undetermined amount of chicken products that may be contaminated with a particular strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requested Foster Farms conduct this recall because this product is known to be associated with a specific illness.

FSIS was notified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a Salmonella Heidelberg illness on June 23, 2014, associated with the consumption of a boneless skinless chicken breast product. Working in conjunction with CDC, FSIS determined that there is a link between boneless skinless chicken breast products from Foster Farms and this illness after recovering the leftover boneless chicken breast for testing. Lab tests confirmed a molecular match between the Salmonella on the cut-up poultry and strains infecting the patient.

39-gun-to-headThis illness is part of an ongoing outbreak being monitored and investigated by FSIS and CDC. Until this point, there had been no direct evidence that linked the illnesses associated with this outbreak to a specific product or production lot. Evidence that is required for a recall includes obtaining case-patient product that tests positive for the same particular strain of Salmonella that caused the illness, packaging on product that clearly links the product to a specific facility and a specific production date, and records documenting the shipment and distribution of the product from purchase point of the case-patient to the originating facility.

It’s a sad day for epidemiology, with Foster Farms fingered in at least 575 cases of Salmonella Heidelberg since March 2013.

The newly recalled products subject to recall bear the establishment number “P6137,” P6137A” or “P7632” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The chicken products were produced on March 8, 10 and 11, 2014. These products were shipped to Costco, Foodmaxx, Kroger, Safeway and other retail stores and distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.

CDC: Antibiotic resistance in foodborne germs is an ongoing threat

In a report that is sure to be interpreted by the political lenses of various groups, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2012 that multi-drug resistant Salmonella decreased during the past 10 years and resistance to two important groups of drugs – cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones – remained low in 2012. However, in Salmonella typhi, the germ that causes typhoid fever, resistance to quinolone drugs increased to 68 percent in 2012, raising concerns that one of the common treatments for typhoid fever may not work in many cases.

chickenpurseAbout 1 in 5 Salmonella Heidelberg infections was resistant to ceftriaxone, a cephalapsorin drug. This is the same Salmonella serotype that has been linked to recent outbreaks associated with poultry. Ceftriaxone resistance is a problem because it makes severe Salmonella infections harder to treat, especially in children.

The data are part of the latest report of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), a tri-agency surveillance system that has tracked antibiotic resistance in humans (CDC), retail meats (Food and Drug Administration), and food animals (U.S. Department of Agriculture) since 1996.  The report from CDC NARMS compares resistance levels in human samples in 2012 to a baseline period of 2003-2007. 

“Our latest data show some progress in reducing resistance among some germs that make people sick but unfortunately we’re also seeing greater resistance in some pathogens, like certain types of Salmonella,” said Robert Tauxe, M.D., M.P.H, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases. “Infections with antibiotic-resistant germs are often more severe. These data will help doctors prescribe treatments that work and to help CDC and our public health partners identify and stop outbreaks caused by resistant germs faster and protect people’s health.”

Among the other findings in the 2012 report:

*Campylobacter resistance to ciprofloxacin remained at 25 percent, despite FDA’s 2005 withdrawal of its approval for the use of enrofloxacin in poultry. Ciprofloxacin and enrofloxacin are both in the fluoroquinolone class of drugs.

*Shigella resistance to ciprofloxacin (2 percent) and azithromycin (4 percent) is growing. However, no Shigella strains were resistant to both drugs.

*Although fluoroquinolone resistance remained low in 2012, Salmonella enteritidis – the most common Salmonella type – accounted for 50 percent of infections resistant to the fluoroquinolone drug nalidixic acid, which is used in laboratory testing for resistance. Resistance to nalidixic acid relates to decreased susceptibility to ciprofloxacin, a widely used fluoroquinolone drug. Other work shows that many of the nalidixic acid resistant Salmonella enteritidis infections are acquired during travel abroad.

The full 2012 NARMS report is available on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/narms/reports/annual-human-isolates-report-2012.html. For more information about NARMS,  visit www.cdc.gov/narms.

In Australia, researchers from the Australian National University’s Research School of Biology tested more than 90 packages of chicken bought from several Canberra retailers for the presence of E. coli. 

chicken.south.parkProfessor of microbial population biology and evolution, David Gordon, said almost 200 samples were found to contain E. coli and of those, about two-thirds were discovered to be antibiotic-resistant.

Just four strains of E. coli were found to be resistant to antibiotics known as fluoroquinolone, which were not used by Australia’s poultry industry, he said. 

Professor Gordon said the E. coli strains researchers found were rare in the samples. 

He said it was unlikely the strains of fluoroquinolone-resistent E. coli were in the chicken before slaughtering, and the “most logical, although not necessarily true, explanation for their presence in poultry is post-processing contamination.”

An ACT Health spokeswoman said although the directorate had not seen the study, the presence of resistant bacteria in chicken meat highlighted the importance of good food handling and preparation when eating chicken, including thorough cooking and cleaning of food-preparation surfaces. 

“This is important to prevent bacterial food-borne illness regardless of whether bacteria are resistant to an antibiotic,” she said. 

An Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority spokeswoman said the authority was responsible for the assessment and registration of veterinary medicines, including antibiotics, in Australia.

She said fluoroquinolones have never been registered for use in food-producing animals in Australia.

“State and territory governments are responsible for controlling the use of pesticides and veterinary medicines beyond the point of retail sale,” she said.

Not just hitching a ride; Campylobacter jejuni can cause disease in some breeds of chickens

Contrary to popular belief, the foodborne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni is not a harmless commensal in chickens but can cause disease in some breeds of poultry according to research published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

campy.chicken“The main implication is that Campylobacter is not always harmless to chickens. This rather changes our view of the biology of this nasty little bug,” says Paul Wigley of Institute for Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool, an author on the study.

Campylobacter jejuni is the most frequent cause of foodborne bacterial gastroenteritis in the world and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate it affects approximately 1.3 million people per year in the United States. Chicken is the most common source of infections. Infection of chickens had previously not been considered to cause disease and the bacteria were thought to be part of the normal microbiota of the birds.

In the study, Wigley and his colleagues experimentally infected birds from four commercial breeds of broiler chickens. They found that while levels of the bacteria in the intestines did not differ by breed, immune response and inflammation did, to the extent that one breed showed damage to the gut mucosa and developed diarrhea.

“Interestingly the breeds did not differ in the levels of bacteria we found in their intestines after infection, even when kept to normal slaughter age,” says Wigley. “This suggests that chicken breed has little direct effect on the risk of Campylobacter entering the food chain but has a big effect on the health of the birds.”

The most important finding, says Wigley, is that Campylobacter infection directly impacts broiler chicken health and welfare. The United States produces over 8 billion broiler chickens per year and the United Kingdom produces nearly a billion. As Campylobacter is common, or even endemic, in these industries then the scale of the impact on animal health is clear to see.

“On the positive side, we now know that chickens produce a robust immune response to infection, which in the longer term may allow us to develop vaccines,” says Wigley.

It’s steaming hot, like road apples? How is that scientific? Campy campaign fails

While the Brits are busy congratulating themselves on their Campylobacter reduction campaign, the following video from the UK Food Standards Agency crossed my computer.


How can any agency talk science-based, while ignoring the science in public advice about cooking chicken.

And these elaborate videos ain’t cheap.

Way to be duped, British taxpayers.

“The only way to kill germs is to cook chicken thoroughly, making sure it’s steaming hot in the middle.

I’ll go with the Hip.

From the duh files: parents serve up their kids’ food hygiene habits

UK’s Food Standards Agency sure spends a lot of money on stuff the rest of us might go, duh?

roast.chicken.june.10Parents have a big influence on their children’s food hygiene habits, according to a survey by the Food Standards Agency. The results show a link between how people currently prepare their food and the behaviors they experienced when they were kids. More than two thirds of UK adults (70%) said their parents insisted on washing hands before meals, with 62% now doing the same themselves.

Just over half (53%) recalled their parents washing chopping boards in between preparing raw and cooked foods – a behaviour that two thirds (66%) had recently repeated.

However, the survey showed that parents don’t always know best when it comes to food safety. Almost half (47%) of adults saw their parents washing raw chicken before cooking it when they were kids, with 46% revealing that they have done the same in recent months. It is this bad food hygiene habit that is the subject of this year’s Food Safety Week, which focuses on the message ‘don’t wash raw chicken’. Washing raw chicken can lead to a potentially dangerous form of food poisoning and almost a third (32%) of people said the reason they wash raw chicken is that their parents or another relative did so when they were growing up.

Bob Martin, food safety expert at the FSA, said: ‘Our survey suggests that mum doesn’t always know best when it comes to food safety.”

Bob, mom always doesn’t do the cooking, but stick to your sexist, taxpayer-funded message if you like.

You may want to add the use of thermometers instead of piping hot, regardless of gender.

Stick it in: Australian MasterChef favorite Sarah Todd eliminated in raw chicken boob

I’m so excited by Masterchef Australia I apparently fell asleep on the couch while it was on.

But Amy watched it in bed, and there was a heated discussion about thermometer use.

barfblog.Stick It InNice to see the cooking shows catch up with 15-year-old widely disseminated science.

And better than piping hot.

Sarah Todd, the 27-year-old, from Queensland, was one of the favorites to win this year’s series of the Channel 10 cooking show.

Sarah, a Chadwick model who made headlines when a topless photo shoot of her emerged, stumbled in a cook-off against Colin Sheppard and Tracy Collins.

Even ‘good luck’ batteries ‘for extra energy’ from her three-year-old son Phoenix couldn’t stop Sarah from plating up raw chicken roulade stuffed with apples and mushrooms.

MasterChef Australia judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan refused to taste the dish — and sent Sarah packing.

Playing chicken with Campylobacter

Campylobacter jejuni is the most common agent of food poisoning in industrialized nations. Professor Gary Dykes’ team at Monash University is trying to understand how it not only survives, but how it persists under conditions that should kill it.

FunkyChickenHiThe various species of Campylobacter – 18 have been described to date – are delicate organisms that colonize the intestines of livestock species and live harmlessly as members of their commensal gut flora. Dykes says they are very fastidious in their requirements for survival and growth.

How, then, do they manage to survive and multiply outside the host animal’s body, despite the use of chemical and physical measures to prevent contamination as meat moves through the food-processing chain from the slaughterhouse to the kitchen?

In industrialized nations, Campylobacter food poisoning occurs at an annual rate of between 20 and 150 cases per 100,000 people. Most human infections involve C. jejuni, a commensal species in chickens that survives in raw and undercooked chicken.

Dykes and his colleagues at Monash University have been trying to determine how Campylobacter manages to attach and survive on exposed food processing surfaces and uncooked meat after animals are slaughtered. All this without succumbing to conditions that are unfavourable for them, such as the high levels of oxygen in air.

He says Campylobacter thrives in an environment that contains less than 5% oxygen – well below the natural 20.95% concentration in air.

Paradoxically, despite its preference for living in the warmth of the intestinal tract, Campylobacter struggles to survive at temperatures higher than 20° Celsius outside the body.

In a recent review paper – ‘Campylobacter and Biofilms’ – Dykes and Amy Huei Teen Teh, from Monash University’s Malaysian campus, reviewed research into the microbe’s ability to form biofilms.

They say that while some studies have shown that C. jejuni does form single-species biofilms on abiotic surfaces in the laboratory, not all strains do so, and some of the biofilms are in the form of aggregated cells, pellicles or flocs that are unlikely to occur on food-processing surfaces in poultry processing plants.

Fresh_Frozen_Chicken_BreastMoreover, most studies have been conducted under static conditions at very low oxygen levels, which do not represent real-world conditions in poultry processing plants.

The few studies made of the microbes under flow conditions have failed to demonstrate that it can form monospecific biofilms under such conditions, and pre-formed monospecific biofilms do not persist at higher flow rates.

Dykes and Teh suggest the fragility of monospecific biofilms of C. jejuni means they are unlikely to be present in poultry plants, where the atmosphere is aerobic and the cells are exposed to high shear forces.

The persistence of the species through the poultry processing chain may thus rest on the species’ ability to form mixed biofilms with other species in the processing environment – studies have shown that such mixed-species biofilms can persist under higher flow conditions than monospecific biofilms of C. jejuni.

They concluded that it is important to understand the mechanisms that contribute to the formation of complex biofilms containing C. jejuni under real-world conditions in processing plants – particularly its interactions with other biofilm-forming species.