Tesco, Sainsburys and Marks and Spencer have all launched an investigation into two of the largest chicken suppliers in the UK, Faccenda and 2 Sisters Food Group. Concern followed claims that there was not enough being done to prevent the campylobacter bug getting into the food chain.
Campylobacter is frequently found in raw meat, particularly chicken, and thus is a significant cause of food poisoning. Although cooking kills the bug, 300,000 contracted food poisoning last year alone in England and Wales, and 15,000 were hospitalised. It has also been estimated that around 100 people die a year from the bug.
Studies have shown that 80 percent of all campylobacter infections are linked to chickens. They carry the bug in their guts and faeces, and according to the Food Standards Agency tests in 2008, around 65 percent of raw chicken is already contaminated and available at our local food stores or butchers. Due to such high statistics, the FSA has ordered new tests because it believes the problem is as bad as ever.
Faccenda has also recently announced the expansion of its processing plant in Telford, along with the promise of creating 300 new jobs. Andy Dawkins, Managing Director stated: “Our investment in current projects to tackle campylobacter is in excess of £1 million. Faccenda Foods is fully committed to a programme of process and product improvements and believe these will result in real improvements in food safety for consumers.”
2 Sisters Food Group also disputed claims that they were not doing enough to prevent the bug, calling the claims “untrue, misleading and inaccurate.” They continued to argue that they have no contamination problems, which has been confirmed by external audits and their own rigorous testing.
Despite their arguments, an investigation into their products continues, as all three leading supermarket companies state their number one priority is providing safe food to their customers. After all, no one wants a product liability lawsuit on their hands!