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2 Sisters Exposed in Chicken Cockup

Posted by Tony-C, in Food Safety 22 August 2014 · 5,090 views

campylobacter
Last month saw a UK broadsheet, The Guardian, alleged a ‘catalogue’ of hygiene failings in the UK poultry industry. The allegations of malpractice related to 2 Sisters’ plants in Llangefni, Anglesey, Wales, and Scunthorpe, and a farm and abattoir operated by Faccenda.

The newspaper claimed undercover footage, photographic evidence and information from whistleblowers revealed how strict industry hygiene standards to prevent the contamination of chicken with Campylobacter can be flouted on the factory floor and on farms.

The main claims were made by an undercover reporter who was recruited mid June and took photos and videos in the 2 Sisters Llangefni facility between 24th & 30th June 2014.

The claims included:

Chickens which fall on to the floor were repeatedly been put back on to the production line at two 2 Sisters sites.

A breakdown led to the water in scald tanks at the same site not being cleaned for three days, so that around 250,000 birds passed through dirty water after slaughter.

Breakdowns led to high-risk material (feathers, guts and offal) piling up for hours on separate occasions while production continued.

A 2 Sisters representative said they did not stop the line because they had to consider the welfare of chickens waiting in crates to be killed (iv). They also denied the allegations despite the evidence presented stating ‘The allegations about our processing sites are untrue, misleading and inaccurate’.

There followed a ‘Typical British Media Frenzy’ and politics came into play here as both 2 Sisters sites were visited by inspectors from the Food Standards Agency at the insistence of the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt. Retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer also carried out emergency inspections as a result of the revelations.

This all came after the FSA’s Food Safety Week 2014 (June 16 -22) with the headline message: 'Don't wash raw chicken' It advised that washing raw chicken can actually spread campylobacter by splashing it onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment.

At the same time the FSA was also spearheading a campaign to bring together work across the whole food chain to tackle the problem which including a reduction in the number of flocks that carry campylobacter and for slaughterhouses and processors to ensure that their processes minimise the levels of contamination in the birds they produce.

According to the FSA Campylobacter causes an estimated 280,000 cases of food poisoning a year; clostridium perfringens, the second most common foodborne pathogen, causes an estimated 79,100 cases. Norovirus is the third most common, causing an estimated 73,400 cases. Salmonella is fourth highest with an estimated 33,600 cases. E. coli O157 is estimated to cause about 9,500 cases.
Campylobacter causes approximately 100 deaths in the UK each year costing the economy approx 900 million GBP.

So comparing cases around the world, the Australian government** has published the following figures for Campylobacter infections:​​** The Australian government has previously stated that Campylobacter was the most frequently notified foodborne infection in Australia.

***In the US Many more cases go undiagnosed or unreported but campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect over 1.3 million persons every year. The authorities in the US are of the view that food processing companies are accountable for following good, up-to-date manufacturing practices that minimize the opportunity for the spread of Campylobacter and other bacteria.

Similarly the WHO have the view that good hygienic slaughtering practices reduce the contamination of carcasses by faeces, but will not guarantee the absence of Campylobacter from meat and meat products. Education in hygienic food handling for abattoir workers and raw meat producers is essential to keep contamination to a minimum. It is estimated that the worldwide burden of Campylobacter ranks fourth after rotavirus, and typhoid fever and cryptosporidiosis at 7.5million DALY or 8.4% of the total burden of diarrheal diseases.

So in the UK incidences of Campylobacter food poisoning are clearly not significantly different to anywhere else in the world. As 4 out of 5 cases are from chicken that is where the focus in reducing Campylobacter food poisoning lies. Just this month the FSA published the first set of quarterly results from a new survey of Campylobacter on fresh shop-bought chickens running from February 2014. The results show 59% of birds tested positive for the presence of Campylobacter. In 4% of samples Campylobacter was identified on the outside of the packaging.

Of 853 samples, 16% of birds tested at this stage of the survey indicating the highest level of contamination of >1000 cfu/g. It is worth noting that it is believed that the infective dose of Campylobacter is small, possibly less than 500 cells

Meanwhile the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has decided to shelve a promise to name and shame supermarkets and processors for their campylobacter rates. The climb down comes after “push-back” from industry and interventions from government departments. It has been suggested that this was due to fears that communication of the results would provoke a food scare similar to that triggered when the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie warned that most of British eggs were contaminated with salmonella in 1988 the result of which was a 60% decline of egg sales. As eggs are commonly eaten part cooked with a ‘runny’ yoke that seemed more of an issue than Campylobacter in raw chicken, however, everyone involved is conscious of the sort of ‘hysteria’ the media can whip up.

So back to The Guardian claims of the ‘dirty secret of the UK’s poultry industry’ supported by pictures of the two breakdowns showing unacceptable practices - I’m sure everyone involved will be working to improve that situation (See Notes: Responses). The video did also unintentionally show examples of high standards of hygiene in the facility filmed.

Clearly work is to be done throughout the food chain to reduce Campylobacter food poisoning but……one final point….. Unauthorized photos & videos were taken at the facilities. This indicates a breakdown in food defence systems which may be common throughout the food industry. If a new employee can access product areas such that they are able to take photos and videos then what could they do if they had malicious intent? Food for thought!


Notes:

CODEX GUIDELINES FOR THE CONTROL OF CAMPYLOBACTER AND SALMONELLA IN CHICKEN MEAT CAC/GL 78-2011
(i) 9.4.1 GHP-based control measures 57. All chickens which drop on the floor should be condemned, or reprocessed under specific conditions as determined by the competent authority. Any dropped product should trigger corrective actions as appropriate, such as trimming and re-washing.
(ii) 9.4.1.1 Scalding
59. Other factors that should be taken into account when designing process control systems that minimise contamination during scalding include tanks being cleaned and disinfected at least daily
(iii) 9.4.1.2 Defeathering 60. Cross contamination at defeathering can be minimised by prevention of feather build-up on equipment
(iv)9.1.1 GHP-based control measures
47. Stress to chickens should be minimised, e.g. by dim lighting, minimal handling and avoiding delays in processing.


EU & EFSA

After the FSA audits Ranjit Singh, CEO of 2 Sisters Food Group, said: “We are satisfied with their findings which show that no legislative compliance issues were raised.”

COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 2073/2005 of 15 November 2005 on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs does not refer to Campylobacter.

EFSA will continue to assist European and national risk managers in monitoring and evaluating the prevalence of Campylobacter and, upon request, provide scientific advice on food safety risks and future risk mitigation activities.

EU measures are also in place to control specific food-borne zoonotic agents, such as Salmonella and parasites. These include mandatory meat inspections and trade restrictions on eggs and live poultry from third countries. The European Commission has also set targets that Member States need to meet to reduce Salmonella in different animal populations, including chickens and turkeys.

In 2011, EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards issued advice on reducing Campylobacter in chicken meat. Recommendations include pre-slaughter measures that could reduce public health risk by 50%, meat production measures that could reduce public health risk by 90% or more, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of achieving set reduction targets.


Retailers Responses to The Guardians Claims


2 Sisters Responses





Fantastically researched and interesting blog Tony, I'm sure members will enjoy it.  Can I ask form a consumer point of view...how is it best to handle and cook chicken to remove bacteria or avoid spreading contamination around the kitchen.  Should we wash or not?

I always wash my chicken before cooking but I am careful not to splash water around and clean up afterwards, dipping would probably be the best method of washing.

Updates:

UK food watchdog admits chicken factory breached hygiene laws Food Standards Agency says it was wrong to clear Scunthorpe plant of any failings

Roy Stevenson was a senior quality controller for more than a decade at one of the UK's largest poultry abattoirs, in Scunthorpe, until the end of 2012 when he was made redundant:
"On the day of the audit, all the lines would be slowed to a minimum where it was pristine," he claimed. "There would be no birds dropping on to the floor, an auditor would walk round and everything would look lovely, unlike any other day."


FSA Update on Campylobacter survey publication

The Food Standards Agency has today confirmed its plans for publishing the quarterly results from its survey of campylobacter on shop-bought chicken. The FSA will name retailers, alongside campylobacter levels, when it releases its next set of results in November.

Knowing you Tony.....can't help thinking you had a huge grin on your face over that title.  

Simon came up with the title ;-)

FSA and Meat Trades Journal campylobacter webinar: Wednesday 2pm

The FSA is joining forces with the Meat Trades Journal (MTJ) to run a webinar on how we can all beat campylobacter together. MTJ Editor, Ed Bedington, will be chairing the session with presentations by Steve Wearne, FSA Director of Policy, Steve Moore, Faccenda’s Head of Quality and Food Safety and Gary Ford, Chief Poultry Adviser at the NFU.

The presentations will be followed by a live question and answer session.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK with about four in five cases coming from contaminated poultry – that’s an estimated 280,000 cases a year.  The MTJ is facilitating the webinar as part of its campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said: 'I am very pleased to be supporting the MTJ’s campylobacter campaign. This webinar will provide valuable insights and advice for businesses on what can be done to minimise campylobacter and reduce the number of people who get ill from this bug. Regulators, processors and farmers all need to work together to tackle this problem. If consumers can add to this equation by following good hygiene practices then this will add another layer of protection in the fight against campylobacter.'

The webinar will take place, Wednesday 18 March 2015 at 2pm. There will be an opportunity at the end to ask questions via the interactive email.

 

If you would like to watch and listen to the webinar, you can sign up via the MTJ website here.

Signs of further progress on campylobacter reduction

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the latest results from its survey of campylobacter on fresh shop-bought chickens.