PR 101: Campylobacter still present on 76% of UK birds, but heavy contamination is down! Steaming hot sucks

The results for the first quarter of testing, from July to September 2015, show a decrease in the number of birds with the highest level of contamination from the same months last year.

chickenpurseThese most heavily contaminated birds are the focus of the current target agreed by industry, which is equivalent to no more than 7% of chickens at retail having the highest levels of contamination. Research has shown that reducing the proportion of birds in this category will have the biggest positive impact on public health.

The new data shows 15% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination, down from 22% in July to September 2014. Campylobacter was present on 76% of chicken samples, down from 83% in the same months of last year.

The results for the first quarter show:

15% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination*

76% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter

0.3% of packaging tested positive at the highest band of contamination

6% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter

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

In this first quarter, 1,032 samples of fresh whole chilled UK-produced chickens and packaging have been tested. The chickens were bought from large UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers. The new survey commenced sampling in July 2015.

The FSA has been testing chickens for campylobacter since February 2014 and publishing the results as part of its campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, making an estimated 280,000 people ill every year.

As with the previous survey, the data shows variations between the retailers. Testing of chickens from Co-op and Waitrose show both retailers have made the most significant reductions in the proportion of the chickens they sell that are most highly-contaminated.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA said: ‘It is good to see that some retailers are getting to grips with campylobacter. However, we want to see all of them pulling together to achieve real and lasting reductions.

‘I am also pleased that we are starting to see retailers and processors being open with consumers about what they are doing to tackle the problem and about the impact their interventions are having on the chickens they are selling.’

But FSA continues to insist chicken is safe as long as consumers follow good kitchen practice:

chicken.thermCover and chill raw chicken: Cover raw chicken and store on the bottom shelf of the fridge so juices cannot drip on to other foods and contaminate them with food poisoning bacteria such as campylobacter;

Don’t wash raw chicken: Cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter, while washing chicken can spread germs by splashing;

Wash hands and used utensils:  Thoroughly wash and clean all utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, after handling raw chicken. This helps stop the spread of campylobacter by avoiding cross contamination.

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 sucks, especially for a science-based agency.


Cook with thermometers: Campy in UK supermarkets, oh and surveys suck

The Food Standards Agency is Thursday to publish the results of its latest UK supermarket survey, testing for the deadly bug Campylobacter in chickens on sale.

chicken.thermdsA study led by Professor Dan Rigby at The University of Manchester found that almost three-quarters of consumers still do not associate the pathogen – the most common cause of food poisoning – with the chickens that they buy.

Professor Rigby said: “Following the headlines – one year ago – about the amount of contaminated chicken on supermarket shelves, we surveyed 900 people and found that only 28% associated Campylobacter with poultry and most still significantly underestimated the rate of contamination of chickens for sale in the UK .

“These findings show there is still a huge amount of work to be done to reduce the problem of Campylobacter infection; a problem which costs the UK around £900m annually.”

“There is still a huge amount of work to be done to reduce the problem of Campylobacter infection; a problem which costs the UK around £900m annually -Professor Dan Rigby”

Other key findings include:

One third of people interviewed shortly after last year’s headlines said they could not recall the story.

Less than half [40%] said they would change their behaviour at all as a result of the news, most citing changes to the way they handled or cooked chicken.

Just over a third of the sample correctly identified the retailer which had just been revealed as having the highest contamination rate.

Retailers are failing to promote the food safety benefits of ‘roast in the bag’ chickens.

UK FSA publishes local authority food enforcement info

The information provided by local authorities and compiled by the UK Food Standards Agency, gives a detailed breakdown of enforcement activity across the country.

Monty_Python_reuni_2738729bThe figures for 2014/15 show a continuing trend of increasing compliance levels across the UK.

David Hart, Head of Local Authority Enforcement and Policy Unit, said: ‘I am pleased to see that the figures this year show business hygiene compliance levels are continuing to improve with 93.0% now broadly compliant with hygiene law – this equates to having a food hygiene rating of 3, 4 or 5. The improvement in broad compliance levels was seen in all four countries.’

In Wales the improvement has been more pronounced, increasing over the past three years to 94% from 88% in 2012/13.

For Northern Ireland, the returns covered only the first three quarters of 2014/15. This was agreed, in view of the need for local authorities to focus on preparations for the local government reorganisation, effective from 1 April 2015.

The trend for local authorities to target food hygiene and standards activities at higher risk establishments, rather than carrying out due interventions at lower risk establishments, has continued across the UK. There was a slight reduction in interventions overall – down by 0.8% on the number reported in 2013/14. And there was a further reduction in local authority professional staffing levels – down 3.9% on 2013/14 levels.

The statistics in the report will help the FSA consider  how best to support  its local authority partners.

The FSA monitors local authority performance through Local Authority Enforcement Monitoring System (LAEMS) returns and reports on an annual basis.

UK E. coli infections ‘rise by 1,000′

The UK has a long history, like many countries, of blaming the consumer when  foodborne illness is involved.

give.blood.townsendMaybe those who are sick are in the wrong class.

The number of people infected with E. coli across England rose by more than 1,000 last year, figures have shown.

Dorset and North, East and West Devon were the worst hit for the infection with 629 and 612 cases each between September 2014 and September 2015.

Public Health England figures show there were 39,604 from September 2014 to September 2015, compared with 38,291 for the same period the year before.

The health authority said it was working to reduce the rate.

That’s a lot of E. coli infections.

Consumers are apparently supposed to:

  • Wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before and after handling food and after handling animals
  • Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and salads
  • Wash all vegetables and fruits that will be eaten raw
  • Store and prepare raw meat and unwashed vegetables away from ready-to-eat foods
  • Do not prepare raw vegetables with utensils that have also been used for raw meat
  • Cook all minced meat products, such as burgers and meat balls, thoroughly
  • People who have been ill should not prepare food for others for at least 48 hours after they have recovered.

The UK health types really do treat people as if they are dense. Wrong social class, I guess.

‘There’s a poop in my burger’ – 16 of worst prank 999 calls to Cambridgeshire police amid sharp rise

Sorenne said the other day, the emergency number in Spain is 112. checked it out and she was right.

She said someone spoke in her grade 1 class about telephones.

We emphasized that the emergency number in Australia is 000.

In North America its 911, and apparently in the UK it’s 999.

A child asking for toilet roll and a report of a “poop in my burger” are among a tripling in the number of hoax 999 calls to Cambridgeshire police prompting a stark warning.

Valuable police time is being taken up by hoax and malicious callers reported fake crimes and emergencies.

A total of 366 calls deemed “inappropriate” were made to the force last year up from 109 the previous year and from January to October this year a total of 259 of the calls have been made.

Figures released using freedom of information laws also show that between August 2010 to July 2011 a total of 590 calls were made to the force that were deemed a “hoax”.

The number increased in the same period the following year to 604 and fell to 587 from August 2012 to July 2013. And the total number of officers deployed to the calls over the three years was 1,074.

The number of crimes linked to the hundreds of hoax calls was 17.

A police spokeswoman said: “The force has seen a rise in the number of hoax calls for service in the last couple of years.

“When a call for service comes in we have a duty to take that report seriously, and by wasting police time on dealing with fictitious calls people are seriously jeopardising the safety of those in genuine need of police help.”

Cambridgeshire police has released a list of hoax calls.

  A youth called, saying ‘your mum’ a couple of times, and then hung up

  Child called saying a robber had stolen his ‘di*k’, laughed, then hung up

  Fake call about an ‘orange glow’ coming from a house – regular hoax caller about fires as ‘likes seeing firefighters’ turn up

  Child asked for a toilet roll and then hung up

  Drunk person telling us they were off to get a kebab

  Child wanting to order a pizza

  Child saying their friend has been kidnapped and killed, laughing, swearing and hung up

  Fake reports of break ins

  Claims that a school was on fire

  Man saying ‘yeah, me and my girlfriend are hard core’ then hung up

  Woman reporting in hospital and nurses have taken her cigarettes off her (not mental health related)

  ‘I meant to call my friend’

  ‘There is a poop in my burger’

  ‘F**k you’

  Neighbour is killing my chickens

  Girl claiming to have been beaten up and was bleeding from ‘everywhere’ when we said we could she her on CCTV she hung up.


30 sickened in over a year: New test to find source of UK E. coli O55

The E. coli O55 mystery continues in Dorset, UK.

It first emerged in July 2014, when two children were hospitalized with acute kidney problems and has since caused outbreaks of infectious diarrhea.

e.coli.O55.issacTo date the O55 strain has affected 30 people, 10 of them children in areas including Bournemouth, Poole, Weymouth, Blandford and Christchurch. It also affected two cats.

All 10 children and one adult were hospitalized after they developed the complication of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) which affects the kidneys.

Noeleen McFarland, from Public Health England, told BBC’s Inside Out South: “When it was confirmed we knew we had uncovered something unusual that hadn’t been seen in the UK before.”

Despite an investigation, tests and screening, the source of the strain, which produces a toxin that can lead to fatal kidney failure, has never been traced.

Public Health England said any previous cases of the O55 strain in the UK had been associated with travel.

Following the outbreak, officers were sent out to investigate and test play parks, swimming pools and restaurants visited by those infected seven days prior to them being ill.

“Everything we investigated, tested and sampled was all negative,” Mrs McFarland said.

e.coli.O55Isaac Mortlock, aged four, from Bournemouth, was hospitalized after contracting the strain.

Isaac’s mum Gabrielle Archer said: “His kidney function didn’t return to normal and we’ve been told he will need a transplant in the future.”

A new test is being developed to detect the O55 strain and it is hoped the test will be ready for use on animals in the new year.

The new test is being worked on by scientists at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), based in Surrey using microscopic magnetic beads which picks out the E. coli O55.

Muesli recalled in UK

I usually begin my day about 3 a.m. (Australian time, that’s 1 p.m. EST) with a review of news, a couple of interviews, and a bowl of homemade granola (I use Alton Brown’s recipe), yogurt, and frozen berries that had been microwaved the night before and then sat in the fridge overnight to reduce the risk of hepatitis A.

doug.granolaAnd a banana.

Cow & Gate in the UK is recalling one batch of its Sunny Start My First Banana Muesli from 10 months on a precautionary basis because of complaints regarding insects found in the product. The company has advised that this product should not be consumed, in case other packs in the batch are affected.

I also like to begin my day with music while I write, and today in 1971, Pink Floyd released Meddle, a vastly underrated album but one that showed the potential of an evolving band that led to Dark Side of the Moon in 1972.

The kids are not alright: STEC in England

Between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2012 in England, a total of 3717 cases were reported with evidence of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection, and the crude incidence of STEC infection was 1·80/100 000 person-years.

kids.are.alrightIncidence was highest in children aged 1–4 years (7·63/100 000 person-years). Females had a higher incidence of STEC than males [rate ratio (RR) 1·24, P < 0·001], and white ethnic groups had a higher incidence than non-white ethnic groups (RR 1·43, P < 0·001). Progression to haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) was more frequent in females and children. Non-O157 STEC strains were associated with higher hospitalization and HUS rates than O157 STEC strains.

In STEC O157 cases, phage type (PT) 21/28, predominantly indigenously acquired, was also associated with more severe disease than other PTs, as were strains encoding stx2 genes.

Incidence of STEC was over four times higher in people residing in rural areas than urban areas (RR 4·39, P < 0·001). Exposure to livestock and/or their faeces was reported twice as often in cases living in rural areas than urban areas (P < 0·001). Environmental/animal contact remains an important risk factor for STEC transmission and is a significant driver in the burden of sporadic STEC infection.

The most commonly detected STEC serogroup in England was O157. However, a bias in testing methods results in an unquantifiable under-ascertainment of non-O157 STEC infections. Implementation of PCR-based diagnostic methods designed to detect all STEC, to address this diagnostic deficit, is therefore important.

 The epidemiology, microbiology and clinical impact of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in England, 2009–2012

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 143 / Issue 16 / December 2015, pp 3475-3487

Stop poaching: Illegal meat trade in UK

Police have asked residents to be on the lookout for meat acquired through illegal poaching and have warned that eating such meat can result in diseases such as Tuberculosis and E.coli.

meat.poaching.ukIn an effort to curb illegal poaching, police have joined forces with a number of agencies including South Somerset District Council to combat poaching in the region head on.

The South West Anti-Poaching Group now has agencies working hard together to share information and identify those catch poaching.

The group’s Stop Poaching campaign encourages the public to report poaching and report where the meat is going, where it is being butchered and where it is being sold.

Any business, including an individual hunter supplying good, has a responsibility to ensure it is fit for consumption, police have warned.

Portfolio holder for environmental health at the district council Carol Goodall said: “The last few years have shown that poaching is not about the lone rural rouge taking one for his larder, there are those who are taking deer, fish and livestock which inevitably end up in the food chain be it via restaurants, hotels or via a meat supplier.”

Seek and ye shall find: Salmonella in UK raw milk cheese

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a statement to say that they have advised Barton Farm to stop selling raw drinking milk.

colbert.raw.milkTests carried out by the FSA and the local authority found samples containing levels of microorganisms that breach food safety regulations. The local authority North Devon District Council also found salmonella in a batch of cheese made with raw drinking milk by the company.

The affected batch of cheese has been withdrawn from sale and consumers alerted.

Barton Farm has issued the following notice on its website: “Due to more harassment from the Food Standards Agency, all sales of our raw drinking milk are currently suspended. All our own test results are clear. Online orders will be fulfilled once the licence has been renewed or a refund will be issued. We would like to thank everyone for their patience while we undergo yet another investigation. Someone definitely doesn’t want us to sell our raw milk.”

In response, the FSA has said that it rejects Barton Farm Dairy’s claim that the action is harassment.