2 Sisters Food Group notes the latest round of data results from the Foods Standards Agency (FSA), published today for the period February 2014 to March 2015.
We lead the industry with our £10m campylobacter reduction programme we launched last November, but it is clear that there no easy way to tackle a complex problem quickly or 100% effectively.
Our reduction plan, touching all areas of the supply chain from farm through to label and packaging innovations, continues at pace and it won’t be until later this year that the full impact of our actions will start showing in the FSA data.
However, where we have applied interventions such as ‘no-thinning’ of poultry flocks (the evidence suggests campylobacter is spread at this point) our own more recent results show significant signs of improvement.
Our independently verified data shows year-on-year improvements where campylobacter is most present.
With the further use of our new factory intervention like our secondary scalding technique, we anticipate an even great removal of campylobacter, reducing its presence to significantly less than the industry target of 10%.
The success of these trials means we are now looking at rolling this initiative out to a wider customer base.
2 Sisters remains committed, alongside our retail and agricultural partners, to reduce campylobacter’s presence, and we will not rest until this has been achieved.
We would also reiterate our previous advice that, as a naturally-occurring bacteria which lives inside healthy chickens, campylobacter is killed by cooking and provided people prepare and handle chicken correctly, they’re at no risk.
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· In November 2014, 2 Sisters Food Group was the first poultry processor to adopt an industry-leading multi-intervention approach, touching the entire supply chain – from farm to end consumer
· The business committed £10m to reduce campylobacter presence – this is far more than any other producer or retailer to date
Our approach includes:
· Farmer training and incentive scheme –
1. We have written an industry leading biosecurity policy and trained every farmer that supplies us on how to implement it.
2. This includes barrier biosecurity, changing footwear and clothing between every shed of chickens and investment in new covered foot dips which prevents dilution of disinfectant.
3. There is also now a financial incentive offered to farmers to ensure they use industry-leading practices; world-class bio security measures and first-class animal husbandry and flock management techniques, which can all contribute to lowering campylobacter levels.
4. In addition we have a dedicated auditor visiting and helping farmers comply.
5. Since implementation of the farm interventions 2 Sisters managers are reporting back that the birds’ welfare is being enhanced by the additional space and stronger biosecurity measures.
· No ‘thinning’ –
1. Scientific evidence suggests campylobacter levels in birds can increase when indoor birds are ‘thinned’ - a practice of removing a proportion of a flock for slaughter ahead of the final slaughter of the remaining birds a week later at heavier weights - a potential break point in biosecurity.
2. By not thinning flocks, the science suggests campylobacter levels are substantially reduced, eradicating or reducing the problem at a very early stage
· Blast surface chilling and secondary scalding -
1. Both these techniques are designed to kill campylobacter when the birds are being processed in the factory. One uses low temperature to kill the bacteria, the other heat.
2. Tests carried out with surface blast chilling indicate we can achieve a substantial reduction in campylobacter on carcasses.
· Packaging innovations –
1. 2 Sisters is introducing ‘oven-ready’ packaging for whole chicken which cuts down the need for washing, handling and therefore reducing potential spread of the bacteria in the kitchen.
· Labelling –
1. 2 Sisters believes that clear and simple labelling instructions – such as ‘there’s no need to wash this chicken’ reinforces recent FSA advise on good hygiene practice and will cut down the risk of camploybacter spreading.