David Young, partner and health and safety expert at Eversheds, has commented on the prevalence of campylobacter in supermarket chickens.
He said: ‘There will undoubtedly be some outrage and surprise surrounding the statistics about campylobacter in supermarket chickens. We should not lose sight of the basic facts before we as consumers declare we are never going near another chicken, or any other poultry for that matter.
‘Campylobacter grows naturally in chickens, just like lots of bacteria grow naturally in humans. Ours do not harm us at all most of the time; those in chickens will not either, if we take the simple measure of cooking the bird properly.’
According to Young, it may be reasonable to be concerned about avoidable costs to the NHS, and consumer health generally, due to food poisoning. The solution, he said, lies in education and consumer behaviour and cannot be targeted entirely at manufacturers and retailers.
‘It is a concern if processing leads to contamination on external packaging. It is a concern if supermarkets or any other retailers should be giving more priority to their suppliers’ production methods and facilities over bare cost per unit, but the other side of that equation is what consumers are willing to pay. The culture of poultry being the cheapest of meat will not be altered overnight, but if consumers are not taught to recognise their own role in the hygiene chain, no amount of good practice within industry will eradicate the problem.’
Young continued: ‘The targeting must be proportionate and sensible. This was the initial route taken by the authorities over horsemeat — blaming the industry before it fully understood the problem; it did not work with food fraud and it will not work with food safety. Consumers have to be part of the solution too.’