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Weekly Overview: Slow Progress on Foodborne Pathogens from Poultry

05 March 2015

GLOBAL - A new study in the UK has noted some reduction in Campylobacter on poultry following a multi-step collaboration between a retailer and a leading chicken supplier although a recent survey shows that there is still room for improvement in reducing the levels of these foodborne pathogens on chicken. Taiwan's poultry sector continues to suffer substantial losses from high-path bird flu, and there have been new outbreaks in Hungary, Myanmar and Nigeria. The low-pathogenic form has returned to Germany.

The poultry sector is under ever greater pressure to reduce the prevalence of Campylobacter on chicken products.

In the UK, 19 of chickens tested in the first nine months of a British Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey on the prevalence of Campylobacter were positive within the highest band of contamination. In all, 73 per cent of chickens tested positive for the presence of Campylobacter and seven per cent of packaging tested positive for the presence of Campylobacter.

However, only three out of more than 3,000 samples of packaging tested positive at the highest band of contamination.

One UK supermarket chain has published a case study showing the results from its recently implemented and successful five-point intervention plan to reduce Campylobacter on its chickens.

Richard McDonald, Chair of the ACT (Acting on Campylobacter Together) Board, said: “The UK is leading the way in the search for solutions to reduce Campylobacter levels. We have learned a lot over the last five years about which interventions have the potential to make chicken safer. We must continue to work together to apply these successfully and help industry deliver the results we all want to see.”

The industry body, the British Poultry Council, welcomed the news that retailers and their suppliers are making significant progress, and confirmed its commitment to the collaboration between industry, retailers and regulators to solving the Campylobacter problem.

Also on foodborne disease, multi-drug resistant forms of Salmonella are spreading across Europe, according to a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and there is also high resistance to the antimicrobial, ciprofloxacin, in Campylobacter in both humans and animals in some Member States.

The report does say, however, that resistance to critically important antimicrobials for both bacteria remains low.

Finally, turning to news of avian flu, Germany has reported its first outbreak of the disease since November as a low-pathogenic H7N7 variant of the virus has hit a turkey flock in the state of Lower Saxony. Over the last week, we have reported further outbreaks of the highly pathogenic disease in Taiwan, affecting more than 346,000 poultry, and new outbreaks in Myanmar, Nigeria and Hungary. There have also been new human cases in Egypt (H5N1) and China (H7N9).

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

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