A report just published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will be of interest to people attending our Food Safety training courses, particularly the HACCP, Global Standard for Food Safety and Food Safety Auditing courses.
The EFSA report gives the results of a survey carried out in 2008 among 26 member states on Campylobacter and Salmonella in chicken at slaughterhouses in the EU. Campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis are the two most reported food-borne diseases in humans in the EU. The overall finding was that a high prevalence of Campylobacter was found in chickens, whereas Salmonella was less frequently detected.
All Member States participating in the survey reported Campylobacter in the chickens they sampled. The samples were taken at the beginning and at the end of the slaughter line – when the chickens arrived at the slaughterhouse and when their carcasses were chilled after slaughtering. On average, the bacterium was found in the intestines of 71% of chickens, indicating that they were already infected when alive, and on 76% of sampled carcasses, which suggested some further contamination during slaughtering. The survey showed that these figures varied greatly between Member States. The respective results for Ireland were 83% compared with the EU average of 71%, for chickens, and 98% compared with an EU average of 76%, for carcasses. The results showed that Ireland was fourth highest result for chickens and second highest for carcasses among the 26 member states surveyed.
The survey found that 22 of the 26 Member States reported Salmonella in the chicken carcasses they sampled. On average, 16% of sampled carcasses were found to be contaminated and again figures varied between Member States. The figure for Ireland was 11%, which though lower than the EU average was still the tenth highest result.
The FSAI comment on this EFSA report and also cite their own report, which is currently being finalised which highlights that 13.2% of the external surface of chicken packaging and 10.9% of the surface of retail display cabinets were contaminated with Campylobacter species.
According to Professor Alan Reilly, CEO, FSAI the findings of both studies provide significant data for the FSAI’s Scientific Committee which is currently working with the food industry and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to look at practical measures to form the basis of a Campylobacter control programme in Irish chicken … Similar to all bacteria found naturally on meat and poultry, the danger posed by Campylobacter can be removed by thoroughly cooking products and by preventing cross-contamination between raw meat and ready-to-eat foods.
The results above further emphasise the critical importance of good hygiene practice when handling chicken in slaughter houses, in retail outlets and in the home.