Animal Aid

Two-thirds of British chicken contaminated with campylobacter

Posted 23 July 2014

An undercover investigation by The Guardian has revealed a string of appalling hygiene and biosecurity failures at slaughterhouses and factory farms that is fuelling the 280,000 cases of campylobacter food poisoning from chicken meat each year.

The investigation found incidents including a machinery blockage causing contaminated entrails to spill across a factory floor for hours, another of water in a scalding tank going unchanged for three days, and numerous examples of chicken meat that had fallen on dirty floors being put back on to processing lines for human consumption. All of these are high-risk incidents with regard to campylobacter contamination.

The disease also spreads rapidly in crowded factory farms. Shared water sources and contaminated faeces, which is not usually cleared out until the birds go for slaughter, are the most common sources of infection. The process of ‘thinning out’ birds, where some are caught and removed to create more space as the chickens grow, further exacerbates the problem as farm workers spread contaminated material around.

The Food Standards Agency had promised to name and shame supermarkets that had the most contaminated chicken on their shelves, but this plan has now been halted due to pressure from retailers themselves.

Campylobacter food poisoning usually causes diarrhoea, vomiting, headache and fever for several days, but has been known to cause more serious and long-lasting complications – even death. The most common source of the disease is poorly cooked meat, particularly chicken.

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