Poultry Industry Should Come Clean

NEW ZEALAND - Companies becoming more transparent will help reduce campylobacter but the strategy is not without risks.
calendar icon 17 June 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

In The Dominion Post, Simon Upton reports on an inspirational address by Jeremy Moon, the founder of Icebreaker. He described the traceability project which will shortly see every garment bar-coded to enable consumers to trace his products from the farm gate to the retailer.

"It's not just a static bit of paper. Full, independently verified disclosure plus a heap of video clips give consumers the entire back story," writes Mr Upton.

Sitting alongside him was Simon Beamish from Rissington Breedlines. Mr Rissington is now able to put the name of the farmer on the label of chilled meat cuts being sold in Marks & Spencer.

"Both businesses are pursuing price premiums. They also openly acknowledge that they are putting themselves at risk. Transparency is an invitation to scrutiny and a portal to disaster if the claims cannot be substantiated."

Mr Upton continues, "How different it is in other industries. Like many New Zealanders, I have been living now for some years with the knowledge that rampant campylobacter contamination makes chicken a potentially high risk food. I'm still waiting for a retailer of chicken to risk full disclosure on the basis that it can vouch for every segment of the value chain.

"Over the last year we've finally seen a concerted effort by the NZ Food Safety Authority to put in place a strategy to reduce the level of gastro-intestinal illness attributable to this organism.

"One of its core elements is the imposition of a maximum acceptable level of campylobacter in broiler rinsate designed to bring about a ten-fold reduction in contamination levels.

"It was not before time. The crisis peaked in 2006 when notifications hit a massive 383 per 100,000 population. That compared with Australia at 121, and 60 in Denmark. While the poultry industry has been indefatigable in claiming that things weren't as bad as they appeared and sighting glimmers of progress at every opportunity, a drop to 227 per 100,000 for the 12 months to April this year and the prospect of a drop below 200 this calendar year is an objective measure of some improvement.

"It's amazing what a bit of regulation can do. But there is a long way to go. We need a one hundred- fold rather than ten-fold reduction in contamination levels on fresh poultry to get our infection rates back in line with the civilised world. There is unequivocal research evidence that a reduction of that order of magnitude is achievable through freezing all chicken. Some countries ensure that only campylobacter negative flocks end up as fresh product," Mr Upton wrote in his Dominion Post report.

View the Dominion Post story by clicking here.
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