BPC Response to the FSA Retail Survey of Campylobacter

Nov27

The British Poultry Council (BPC) views the release of retail survey data as another step to reduce the number of cases of food poisoning by raising awareness amongst consumers. Over the last five years the poultry sector, with retailers and the FSA, has worked hard to understand how this naturally occurring bug gets into flocks, how we can stop it, and how we can remove it once it’s there. It is important to note that campylobacter is a global issue.

The data released from six months of sampling shows that all producers and retailers have levels in the same range. The difference between upper and lower in overall level of campylobacter in flocks is not statistically significant when examined against confidence intervals. This reinforces how universal and challenging the issue is and the complex nature of campylobacter. This data for the first half of 2014 reflects the historical trend of campylobacter peaking in the summer months, and we look forward to seeing the results from future surveys.

It is right that consumers have plenty of information on which to base their buying decisions, be that on safety, welfare, convenience, or price. The industry is freely sharing its progress on reducing campylobacter and details of work undertaken and ongoing can be found at www.campylobacter.org.uk

Campylobacter is not a new phenomenon and research into the bacteria has been ongoing for decades across the globe. We have made significant improvements in detection methods and diagnostics in recent years which will aid our continuing research and measuring the effects of any potential intervention.

Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security who led the government’s review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks, said: “Campylobacter is a complex problem to get to grips with, not only in the UK but worldwide. The Food Standards Agency have very correctly identified this as an important issue for them and the UK food industry to work on in a collaborative manner. I’m not aware of any region in the world working harder to find solutions to this problem but in my opinion, having looked at all the evidence, there is no ‘quick fix’. Improved interventions at the farm level, food processing and packaging, food service and at retail will all be required to really get to grips with significantly reducing the level of contamination and reducing associated human illness. ”

Poultry producers have looked at every part of their production chain to see where new ideas and technology can combat this very complex bacteria. Improved biosecurity on farms, new methods in the slaughterhouse, and brand new technologies being developed such as SonoSteam, rapid surface chilling, and roast-in-the-bag packaging. We hope that a combination of these measures will, over time, reduce the level of campylobacter in chickens.

Reducing the use of thinning (removing birds from a house in stages) is an intervention that may reduce the risk of colonisation by campylobacter in flocks. Not thinning would mean fewer birds being produced on a given farm and at a higher cost, and across the industry more growing space would be required to meet consumer demand.

Consumers also have a role to play as thorough cooking eliminates campylobacter, and along with proper storage and handling any risk can be managed in the kitchen. Roast-in-the-bag technology, on the shelf alongside regular packaging, will allow consumers to choose a product that suits both their lifestyle and their level of confidence in handling and cooking chicken.

Professor Elliott continued: “I also believe education has a major role to play. We need to improve the amount of teaching children (and in many cases adults) get in terms of storing, preparing and cooking food. In terms of the much broader issues of food security and healthy diets, poultry is an extremely important food source. I firmly believe collectively we will get on top of the Campylobacter issue but this will only be achieved by all stakeholders, including us as consumers, playing important roles.”

The BPC and its members are committed to the Joint Working Group on campylobacter, between industry, government, and retailers. This forum has delivered significant understanding of campylobacter over the last five years, and is now overseeing the implementation of techniques that have been developed.

Richard MacDonald, Chair of the JWG, said: “I know that all the stakeholders are here to find a solution, and we are convinced that solid scientific process supported by robust data will be the only path to success. It will take time and effort but I firmly believe we will see incremental improvements made in the fight against campylobacter. All parts of the food chain must work together and I hope we will continue to have the full support of the FSA to do it. There is no ‘silver bullet’ to eradicate this bacteria, but we hope that by operating a step by step approach from farm to fork, we can reduce levels found in chicken.”

For more information on campylobacter and the work of the JWG please visit: www.campylobacter.org.uk

Consumers now able to track fight against campylobacter online

Nov26

26 November 2014- The Joint Working Group on Campylobacter has today launched a website allowing consumers to follow its progress in tackling the bacterium.

Under new Chairman Richard Macdonald CBE, former NFU Director General, the JWG is committed to increasing awareness and transparency of the work the group is undertaking and its progress in tackling campylobacter.

Campylobacter is a global issue and the UK is leading the way on research to understand the naturally occurring and complex bacterium. The website provides outlines of this work and the interventions being trialled by industry to find a solution to the problem. An analysis of these interventions has been provided, alongside an assessment on whether they can form part of a comprehensive mix of interventions that can kill the bug for good.

The website also provides advice to consumers on how to tackle the bug at home. Like any bacteria, campylobacter is killed by proper cooking and good kitchen hygiene should always be followed when handling any meat.

Richard Macdonald CBE, Chair of the Joint Working Group, said: “The Campylobacter website is a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to reassure consumers we are working hard to tackle campylobacter.

“The British poultry meat industry, FSA, DEFRA, NFU and retailers have been working together since 2009 to understand this global issue and identify the means to tackle it. This website is a central resource for anyone wanting to understand more about the work the group has undertaken and to keep updated on developments.

“Consumers should rest assured that the Joint Working Group remains confident of finding the right mix of interventions and technologies to tackle campylobacter once and for all.”

The website can be found at www.campylobacter.org.uk.

-ENDS-

Media contact

For more information call Chris Potter on 07540 501173

Notes to Editors

  1. About the Website

The Joint Working Group on Campylobacter launched www.campylobacter.org.uk on 26 November 2014 It has been designed by the group to provide consumers information on campylobacter, the work being undertaken to understand the bacterium, steps being taken and the progress in tackling it in the UK. As a central resource, it also has information on the role consumers can play in tackling the bug at home – like any bacteria, campylobacter is killed by proper cooking and good kitchen hygiene should always be followed when handling any meat.

  1. About Campylobacter and the Joint Working Group

Campylobacter is a naturally occurring bacteria found in the gut of many animals. It is a global issue and all those involved in supplying meat have a role to play in reducing campylobacter. People handling fresh chicken and other meats – whether in restaurant kitchens or in the home – should always follow good hygiene practices and cook food thoroughly as this kills campylobacter.

The poultry industry has been working hard to tackle campylobacter and fully recognises its responsibility to ensure the food it produces is safe. It has worked with the FSA, DEFRA, BRC and the NFU since 2009, through a Joint Working Group, on a reduction plan. The partnership approach has been successful in driving industry-wide efforts.

Over the last five years, over 70 scientific research projects into the bacteria have been conducted and new trials are currently taking place. While much new information has been obtained through these projects, more work is required to find a consistent means of reduction.

Over the next 18 months, the JWG will be moving to a delivery phase with large scale trials and implementation of those measures that are most promising for campylobacter reduction. The industry will continue to work closely with all the JWG partners to implement effective measures against campylobacter as soon as practical.

  1. About the Interventions

BPC members are trialling a variety of interventions in their businesses and exchanging information on which approach works best in reducing campylobacter while maintaining product quality. Not every intervention is appropriate for each set of circumstances.

Process Stage Intervention Description
Farm Biosecurity Red Tractor standards now have enhanced biosecurity built into them. This includes, foot dips, clothing requirements and biosecurity barriers.
  No thinning Birds in poultry houses that are not thinned are all taken to slaughter at the same time. This reduces the human/bird interaction, and minimises the opportunity for campylobacter to be brought into a flock.
Catching Improved practices Revised Red Tractor standards also include the requirement that catching teams abide by the same biosecurity standards as farm staff and that all equipment is disinfected with a DEFRA approved disinfectant prior to use.
Transport Crate and Module washing Poultry is transported to the slaughterhouse in creates contained in a module. These will be thoroughly washed prior to re-use to prevent cross contamination between flocks.
Slaughterhouse Re-scalding Slaughtered poultry is scalded prior to de-feathering to loosen the feathers. They may be scalded a second time after de-feathering to remove any contamination.
  Improved washing All BPC producers will ensure that they optimise the maintenance and adjustment of their carcass washing systems to ensure a maximum level of cleaning of each bird.
  Temperature treatment As part of the chilling process, some producers will be trialling temperature treatment of the birds to reduce and remaining levels of bacteria.

SonoSteam treatment works as follows:

The zone of air closest to the surface serves as a protective mantel restricting vapour and heat exchange across the surface. This layer is often referred to as the laminar sub-layer.

The ultrasound sets the air of the laminar zone in a state with intensified molecular oscillations, causing the steam to be continuously pumped and forced towards the very surface of the target material. This results in a destruction of the protective characteristics of the laminar sub-layer and hot steam can now enter microstructures and pits in the surface and secure fast heat transfer. The continuous pumping of new steam creates a fast, substantial flux of heat to the surface structure.

Due to the small size of microorganisms, these are heated and killed so quickly that the depth of heat entrance into the surface of the product is kept at a minimum. Therefore, the treatment can be stopped before the surface is sensory affected. That is why the effective processing time in a SonoSteam® treatment is very short and for some applications even shorter than one second.

Cold temperature treatments work as follows:

In one technology the surface of the birds is exposed to a liquid nitrogen spray at -196 degree Centigrade for a few seconds to chill the surface layer down below freezing (but above -2 degrees Centigrade) and kill bacteria.

Another technology uses the liquid nitrogen to chill air, which again is used to chill the surface layer down below freezing (but above -2 degree Centigrade) and kill bacteria.

Packaging Novel packaging Some producers and retailers are experimenting with packaging that does not need to be removed prior to cooking, removing an opportunity for cross contamination in the kitchen
Kitchen Education The BPC and its members continue to educate the public about the need for good kitchen hygiene to avoid cross contamination and thorough cooking.

 

Defra: Wild Bird Biosecurity Guidance

Nov25

As part of the effort to raise awareness of the importance of biosecurity by poultry keepers, Defra has re-issued this guidance. Containing advice and information this guidance will be of interest to those concerned about the impact of bird flu outbreaks, and what protective measures can be taken at farm level.

Biosecurity Guidance from Defra

Nov19

The following information has been published on the gov.uk website:

Wild birds are one possible source of the H5N8 avian flu outbreak in East Yorkshire. That is why we are advising poultry keepers to follow good practice to minimise contact with wild birds while the origin of the infection is being investigated.

This includes:

Isolating new birds before they are placed with existing farm birds, to prevent possible disease spread.

Reducing the likelihood of contact with wild birds by making sure housing is bird proof; minimising contamination by wild birds of feed and water supplies and avoiding siting of housing near water.

Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a cycle.

Minimising potential contamination from manure, slurry and other products that could carry disease, by reducing movements of people, vehicles or equipment into and from areas where poultry are kept.

Cleansing and disinfecting protective clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry. If practicable use disposable protective clothing.

We would also remind poultry keepers to be extra vigilant in providing clean drinking water and food, preferably indoors, to prevent possible contamination.

It is essential that anyone keeping poultry is vigilant for any signs of disease and seeks prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns. Premises within the Protection and Surveillance zones are subject to specific requirements in relation to biosecurity.

Defra confirm AI strain

Nov18

Defra confirmed this afternoon that the strain of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) found on a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire is of the H5N8 strain, which is a very low risk to human health and no risk to the food chain.

Work is now underway to understand the route of the infection.

The exclusion zones around the farm, at 3km (protection zone) and at 10km (surveillance zone), remain in place.

Across the country a high level of surveillance of housed and wild birds is continuing.

Bird Flu Q&A

Nov17

What is bird flu?

Avian influenza is a virus that causes disease in birds. Poultry, pigeons and wild or migratory birds, such as ducks, swans, and geese, can become infected with the virus. There are two forms of the virus: high pathogenicity (HPAI) and low pathogenicity (LPAI). Pathogenicity indicates the severity of the disease if the bird contracts the virus.

What is the risk to public health?

In this case Defra has stated that the risk to public health is very low. Some strains of avian influenza can pass to humans, but this is very rare. It usually requires very close contact between the human and infected birds.

Does bird flu affect the meat I eat?

No. The Food Standards Agency advises that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

What does the name mean?

The name, e.g. H5N1, represents the particular strain of the virus. The H and N numbers represent two of the eight genes associated with a strain. LPAI strains can evolve over time to become HPAI, but all currently known HPAI strains are either H5 or H7.

Is this the same strain as the recent outbreaks in the Netherlands and Germany?

We don’t yet know. Defra will confirm the strain of the virus as soon as testing is complete.

How was this case reported?

The company, Cherry Valley, noticed a drop in egg production (on its own not a suspicion for bird flu), which after a period of time was joined by an increase in mortality in the flock. At this point there were sufficient symptoms for a suspicion of bird flu and, as a notifiable disease, it was reported to the APHA who then took official samples. Upon confirmation of HPAI controls measures were put in place.

Have the birds on the farm been culled?

Not yet. This will be carried out under the control of the authorities over the next day or so. Once this is complete the farm will be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned.

What are control zones?

The protection zone (3km) and surveillance zone (10km) are put in place to control movement of poultry within and out of the area. Additionally within the zone all poultry should be housed and measures taken to maintain separation from wild birds. Movement of birds, for example to the slaughterhouse, is then carried out under official licence.

Will it spread?

We don’t know yet. The response was thorough and hopefully rapid enough to contain the outbreak on the one farm. Increased surveillance and high vigilance by poultry keepers are essential to monitor the surrounding area for further incidents.

How can you spot avian influenza in birds?

The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds are:
– swollen head
– blue discolouration of neck and throat
– loss of appetite
– respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
– diarrhoea
– fewer eggs laid

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection. The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses.

What if I work with birds?

If you work with birds that are suspected of having highly pathogenic avian influenza, it is important that you are protected from exposure.

If the virus was transmitted to humans the most likely route would be by breathing in dust and mist generated by infected birds and by not washing hands after handling infected birds or contaminated equipment and clothing. The virus can also be spread between bird houses and farms by moving contaminated equipment or machinery. It is important that you use the right equipment and good hygiene methods to protect yourself and your colleagues.

The HSE guide can be found at: www.hse.gov.uk/biosafety/diseases/aisuspected.pdf

Is production outside of the control zones affected?

No. Outside of the control zones production continues as normal. However, bird flu is taken very seriously by the whole British poultry sector and all producers are rigorous in applying their own controls. This is particularly important given that the movement of wild birds at this time of year makes this an unpredictable situation. However, with high vigilance and rapid response it is controllable and the impact on farmers can be minimised.

Defra Confirm Bird Flu

Nov17

Defra confirmed last night (16th November) that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been found on a duck farm in Yorkshire. Disinfection procedures are underway at the farm near Driffield, under direction from Defra.

The N number is yet to be confirmed but this does come in the back of the outbreaks of the H5N8 strain in Germany and the Netherlands, and which was until recently confined to South East Asia. These are believed to have been caused by migratory wild birds.

Defra has placed two exclusion zones around the farm, at 3km (protection zone) and at 10km (surveillance zone), following the requirements of the Avian Influenza order 2006. It requires the housing of all poultry or, if that is not possible, the complete separation of poultry farms from wild birds. Movement of all poultry and poultry products within these zones is controlled under licence.

Maintaining a high level of surveillance of housed and wild birds in the UK is key to helping contain avian influenza once present.

BPC chief executive, Andrew Large said: “Wide and ongoing surveillance of housed and wild birds in the UK, particularly susceptible waterfowl species, is key. We hope this outbreak has been quickly contained. Avian influenza is a disease of birds and the risk to the general public is judged by health experts to be negligible.

“Consumers should continue to support British poultry meat, assured that there is no risk in eating cooked poultry, and that is a message echoed by the Food Standards Agency and the World Health Organisation”.

Large continued: “The rapid containment and culling of this outbreak has proved how effective partnership between government and the poultry sector can be. DEFRA, the other agencies involved, and the industry, have dealt with the situation in a rapid and effective way and the controls in place are proportionate to the risk poultry farmers faced.”

Poultry farmers are being urged to maintain high vigilance and bio-security.

Epidemiological investigations into the source of the outbreak are continuing and the British Poultry Council is liaising closely with Defra.

For further information please contact Richard Griffiths on 07545 922117

Case of Bird Flu at Duck Farm in Yorkshire

Nov16

The BBC is reporting:

‘A case of bird flu has been confirmed at a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire, officials have confirmed.

The risk to public health and the food chain is low, a spokesman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.’

BPC will make a statement once more details have been released.

Poultry feed costs continue to rise

Nov06

London, 6 November 2014 - The Government today released data on the production and prices of animal feed. From January 2006 to June 2014, according to those figures, average compound feed prices for livestock in Great Britain rose by 85.8% for cattle feed, 75.7% for pig feed, 101.4% for poultry feed and 92.7% for sheep feed.

Commenting on the data Andrew Large, BPC Chief Executive, said: “Poultry producers have seen the highest rise in feed since 2006 compared to other major livestock types.

“We therefore urge the Government to act to broaden the range of animal feeds that are available. In particular we seek action to remove the legislative barriers to the use of insect based meal in poultry feeds; and we seek support for the re-introduction of processed animal proteins in poultry feeds, subject to strict controls.”

-ENDS-

Media contact

For more information call Chris Potter on 07540 501173

Notes to Editors

A link to the Animal Feed Statistics can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/370926/animalfeed-statsnotice-09oct14.pdf

HSA Awards

Nov05

The Humane Slaughter Association awards are now open for application. To find out more or to apply click here:

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