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.

Raw milk in UK? FSA Board wants more evidence

The UK Food Standards Agency board has asked for the FSA to maintain the current regulations controlling the sale of raw milk, while further evidence is gathered to allow board members to make a final decision on whether to revise the rules.

colbert.raw.milkFollowing a review of the current raw milk regulations, the FSA had proposed exploring the scope for wider access to raw milk, including limited sales from vending machines in shops.

The proposals were discussed today by the Board. They concluded that additional evidence was required on risks from specific pathogens. More detail was also requested on the proposed testing regime that would be necessary to allow extended sales while maintaining consumer protection. The Board said a final decision should not be made until the European Food Safety Authority has delivered the findings of its own review of the risks from raw milk which is expected in December 2014.

The FSA will now consider the conclusions in more detail and agree a timeframe for delivering the additional work the Board has requested.

UK take-away shut down after 14 people sickened with Salmonella

The Woks Cooking eatery on Richard Hesketh Drive in the Westvale area of Kirkby was shut down on Monday after 14 people caught Salmonella.

woks.cookingA number of people – suffering from fever, diarrhoea and vomiting – were diagnosed with food poisoning.

One man told the ECHO he had spent a night in intensive care after his kidneys failed.

Speaking from his sick bed in Fazakerley hospital, he said he was “lucky to be alive”.

He said: “I went to intensive care and my kidneys failed. I also spent four nights in critical care.

“I bought special fried rice and a couple of days later I was ill. I had severe diarrhea and I was vomiting. I called the doctor and the ambulance came out for me. I felt awful.”

Another of those affected by the outbreak was Paula Pierce’s 24-year-old daughter, who ended up on morphine.

Paula, who manages the nearby Railway pub, told the ECHO: “My daughter Chantelle had a steak and kidney pie and hot and sour soup from there a week Monday ago. She wasn’t feeling well later on. She went to the doctors on the Tuesday and was diagnosed with food–poisoning.

A spokesman for Knowsley Council said: “The premises are closed subject to an Emergency Prohibition Order.”

The council said it was investigating a number of cases of Salmonella infection linked to a takeaway establishment in Knowsley.

To date there have been 14 laboratory confirmed cases.

Dr Alex Stewart, from the Cheshire & Merseyside PHE Centre said: “Investigations are still on-going and all public health measures have been put in place.”

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.

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.

135 sick; maybe piping hot isn’t the best advice: Nottingham takeaway Khyber Pass closed after E. coli ‘outbreak’

I have no idea why it takes the Brits so long to inform people of impending health risks, other than the bureaucrats think they know better than the plebes.

the-khyber-passMore than 100 people fell ill after an “outbreak” of E. coli at a Nottingham takeaway, prompting an investigation by Public Health England.

The city council shut down The Khyber Pass in Hyson Green last month after reports of 13 people falling ill.

Now it has discovered 135 cases of gastrointestinal problems, 17 of which have been confirmed as E. coli.

The cause of the bug is not known and the restaurant will remain closed until the investigation is complete.

Paul Dales, from Nottingham City Council, said: “While a high number of cases with food poisoning-like symptoms relating to Khyber Pass have been reported to us, we are confident the closure of the premises has contained the outbreak.”

Nobody was available to comment from The Khyber Pass.

Uh-huh.

UK owner counts cost of cockroach-infested takeaway

A takeaway owner whose shop was shut down by food safety inspectors after they found rodent droppings and cockroaches there has been ordered to pay almost £2,000.

Seven Sisters Kebabs + PizzaErdem Sert, who ran Seven Sisters Kebabs + Pizza, in Seven Sisters Road, Tottenham, admitted a string of food hygiene offences when he appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on July 2.

It followed a visit by Haringey Council’s food safety officers on March 7, when they immediately shut down the takeaway after finding cockroaches crawling on the floor and work surfaces and rodent droppings.

Sert pleaded guilty to failing to keep the premises in a good clean state, failing to keep it free from pests and failing to ensure that food was not at risk of contamination.

Go beyond piping hot? new UK food poisoning figures published

New research published by the Food Standards Agency gives the most detailed picture yet of how many people suffer from food poisoning in the UK every year and how much food poisoning can be attributed to different foods.

Ministry-Silly-WalksThe findings are important as official data for food poisoning cases significantly under-estimates how big the problem is, as only the most serious cases get reported. Most people do not seek treatment from their GP, and not all GPs carry out tests for specific pathogens, so these unreported cases are not captured in routine surveillance data.

The data from this study, coupled with data from official statistics, refines our previous estimates of the real burden of foodborne disease and so will help focus efforts to reduce levels of food poisoning in the UK.

The study found that:

There are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. This figure would more than double if it included food poisoning cases from unknown pathogens.

Campylobacter was the most common foodborne pathogen, with about 280,000 cases every year.

The next most common pathogen was Clostridium perfringens with 80,000 cases, and norovirus was third with an estimated 74,000 cases.

Salmonella is the pathogen that causes the most hospital admissions – about 2,500 each year.

Poultry meat was the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year.

After poultry, produce including vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, caused the second highest number of cases of illness (an estimated 48,000 cases), while beef and lamb were third (an estimated 43,000 cases).

The researchers were able to identify about half a million cases of food poisoning every year attributable to 13 specific pathogens. However, 10 million cases of infectious intestinal disease (IID) a year are not yet attributed to a specific pathogen. If these cases had similar rates attributable to food then this would bring the overall figure to in excess of a million cases a year.

Professor Sarah O’Brien, the study’s lead researcher from the University of Liverpool, said: ‘These findings will help the FSA to target its resources more effectively in tackling food poisoning. They confirm that the FSA is right to put campylobacter at the top of its priority list. It is the biggest food safety problem we have and more needs to be done to tackle it.’

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said: ‘This study is a very important part of the research we fund to increase our knowledge of food safety and the risks that all of us are exposed to. Reduction of campylobacter is our top food safety priority, and that is borne out by this research. We recently revised our campylobacter strategy and we, in collaboration with industry, must now push on to find the solutions that will stop so many people getting ill.’

The research is an extension of the IID2 study, published in September 2011, which estimated the numbers of cases of IID in the UK. The IID2 extension was commissioned by the FSA to use the data generated from the IID2 study, and other sources, to estimate the burden of foodborne disease in the UK.

Step away from the baguette ‘Unsafe’ sandwiches destroyed after joint raid on UK firms

Around 1,260 unsafe food items have been destroyed after a coordinated operation in Witley Industrial Estate in Southall.

doug.wine.breadFood safety officers from Ealing Council worked with the police and the Home Office to carry out the raid early in the morning of May 28, with council officers targeting unsafe food production and seizing 360 baguettes as a result of poor temperature control.

Ealing magistrates last week ordered the food to be destroyed and awarded the council full costs of £591.36.

Another business operating at the same estate also agreed to voluntarily dispose of 900 food items which had not been produced hygienically.

During the operation, police officers from Southall Green Safer Neighbourhood Team arrested a 20-year-old man for a public order offence.

Officers from the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement team also arrested a 28-year-old Indian man, who had overstayed his visa.

He has been placed on immigration bail and must report to the Home Office while his case is progressed.

219 sick: Bognor Butlins holidaymakers in Norovirus legal action

Lawyers representing 219 people struck down by a highly contagious stomach bug at a Butlins holiday camp in West Sussex have started legal action.

The holidaymakers fell ill between May and July 2011 following a norovirus outbreak at the camp in Bognor Regis.

Irwin Mitchell solicitors said court proceedings had started following a denial of liability by Butlins’ parent company Bourne Leisure.

Butlins said: “We will robustly defend the speculative action.”

Amandeep Samra, from Irwin Mitchell, which is seeking compensation for its clients, said the court papers were being sent to Birmingham County Court where the case will be heard.

Among those taken ill were two groups from London – members of the Ealing Handicapped Irish Dancers and Mencap Hillingdon North.

Solicitors will argue they had been served undercooked food, and had seen pigeons on tables and flies on and around uncovered food.

They will also allege there were sewage smells around parts of the resort, and on occasions, the swimming pool was “cloudy with slime around the edges”.

A spokesman for Butlins at Bognor Regis said: “We operate our resorts to the highest health and safety standards and work closely with the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that our guests’ safety takes priority.”