FSA “hopes” for summer restart to campylobacter sampling

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) hopes to be able to restart its campylobacter retail sampling in the summer, once it has worked out how to enable its testing protocol to deliver a more consistent indication of bug levels than was previously possible.

“Tackling campylobacter remains our number one priority,” said FSA’s director of policy, Steve Wearne, commenting as part of a newly published update on the Agency’s year-long survey, which is designed to measure the amount of campylobacter on chickens bought from shops and supermarkets.

“The ultimate test, to show if our campaign is working, is to see whether or not fewer people get ill. That’s why we want to see 100,000 fewer cases of campylobacter each year from the end of March 2017.

“So there’s no let up for industry. We want to see continuing efforts to reduce this bug on our chickens.”

Mr Wearne’s call for sustained action followed the confirmation that FSA has decided to suspend its survey for the time being while it looks again at what sort of testing might be needed to provide clear information of the progress being made by retailers to tackle campylobacter.

“We’re considering a number of options for amending our testing protocol,” said FSA, adding that it was hoping to restart sampling in the summer.

“Additionally, in the longer-term, we will be asking industry to conduct their own testing and to publish their results to an agreed set of standards prescribed and maintained by us.”

The survey suspension was due to the fact that a growing number of processors now remove the neck skin before the birds are put on the supermarket shelves. While this reduces the amount of campylobacter on the bird, FSA found that it affected the accuracy of its survey, making it particularly difficult to compare the performance of one retailer with another.

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