Weekly Overview: Poultry Sector Faces up to Tough Challenges

GLOBAL - In the UK, recent results from a survey of Campylobacter prevalence in chickens for sale has caused a leading poultry company to take action. The global animal health agency has called for better surveillance for disease as avian flu hits poultry in India and Canada.
calendar icon 4 December 2014
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Following the formation of a Joint Working Group to tackle Campylobacter in a focused way in the United Kingdom, one of the country's leading poultry companies has announced a significant programme aimed to cut the link between this foodborne pathogen and poultry meat.

2 Sisters Food Group is leading the largest and most comprehensive programme to tackle Campylobacter ever undertaken by the UK poultry industry.

The business has launched a £10-million initiative, with contributions from its retail partners, into reducing Campylobacter levels in poultry; far exceeding anything the sector had previously invested.

The multi-intervention plan, touching all stages of the supply chain from farm to consumer, aims to reduce Campylobacter levels at each stage, and provide industry insight into the best ways to tackle the naturally occurring bacteria.

The announcement from 2 Sisters followed the publication by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) of the results of its survey of Campylobacter on fresh chickens.

It includes results that have been described as "alarming" with respect to the high proportion of retail chickens testing positive for Campylobacter and those testing positive for the bacteria above the highest level of contamination.

Responding to the survey results, one animal welfare campaign group said the link between bird welfare and public health cannot be ignored.

Compassion in World Farming’s Director of Food Business, Dr Tracey Jones, said: "What’s clear is that our desire for cheap chicken, which is relentlessly driving down prices, is a fundamental barrier to solving this issue."

Another issue concerning the global poultry industry is bird flu.

Within the last week, India has reported three outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu in village ducks in the state of Kerala with more than 200,000 birds reportedly culled. There have also been two outbreaks in British Columbia in Canada; the cause is also an H5 variant but the full identification has not yet been announced.

In The Netherlands, the approach to controlling the disease caused by the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus has been somewhat relaxed in the absence of any new outbreaks. Germany and the United Kingdom too have reported no further virus-positive results in the last week.

Egypt has reported four new confirmed human cases of H5N1 influenza, three of whom have died and in China, a further two people are in a critical condition having contracted flu of the H7N9 type associated with live poultry markets.

Among the lessons to be learned from the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 in Asia and Europe, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is recommending a strengthening of animal disease surveillance worldwide.

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