Supermarkets selling contaminated chickens

whats_for_dinner_1600_wht_11336Despite knowing that the chickens on their shelves are contaminated with a potentially lethal bacterium campylobacter. This makes almost 300,000 people ill each year.

The British Poultry Council, which represents chicken producers, has admitted that of the 5,000 batches of chicken randomly selected at slaughterhouses for testing, 24% – that’s almost a quarter or 1 in 4 – tested positive for the highest levels of contamination.

These results were sent to retailers within 2 days but by that time the chickens were already on the supermarkets’ shelves. The shocking thing is that no action was taken to remove them or warn shoppers which batches were affected.

The Council’s Director of Food Policy, Richard Griffiths, also declined to publish results from the survey showing which slaughterhouses had the highest contamination rates and which retailers they supplied.

Experts all agree that this is not acceptable with consumer group Which? calling for more transparency in the public interest and Professor Eric Millstone from the University of Sussex saying supermarkets should put systems in place so they can quickly withdraw these contaminated batches from sale. He also thinks that all this information should be in the public domain so customers can make informed choices.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents major retailers, said its members were not required by the Food Standards Agency to withdraw contaminated chickens. They said the tests were only carried out to check hygiene standards and publishing the results would only confuse shoppers. They said “we need to maintain the strong message that all chicken should be handled with care”.

What a condescending response. It thinks we are too stupid to understand that we run the risk of food poisoning if we buy a chicken at a particular supermarket! But the British Retail Consortium does all it can to protect its members from any criticism. And in the meantime the supermarkets try to pull the wool over our eyes and sell us food not fit for purpose.

What is the Food Standards Agency (FSA) doing about it? In the Summer retailers tried to prevent the FSA from publishing full results of a survey of chickens sold in shops. But next week it will name and shame those retailers with the highest rates of campylobacter contamination.


btw we’ve also had an outbreak of bird flu. The largest supplier of duck meat in Britain took 6 days to tell the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) it might have a problem as the ducks had stopped laying. This is apparently well-known to be an early indicator of bird flu. The company, Cherry Valley, originally said it contacted the authorities on the same day it noticed the drop in egg-laying but said it had made mistake and retracted that statement when Defra contradicted it.

6,000 ducks have been slaughtered and Defra imposed a 6-mile restriction zone at the farm in Nafferton, East Yorkshire. The strain identifies, H5N8, has not been associated with infection in humans and DEfra says that the advice from Public Health England and the chief medical officer is that the risk to public health is low. And the FSA said there is no safety risk for consumers

 It’s clear we can’t trust food producers and retailers to tell us the truth about contaminated products. Supermarket bosses must know about these problems but daren’t tell us in case they lose customers. So when they are not actually misleading you, they are keeping you in the dark. And shame on you Richard Griffiths for not acting in the public interest.