Acting on Campylobacter Together

Acting on Campylobacter Together is a campaign to bring together the whole food chain to reduce levels of campylobacter in chicken and to reduce the burden of foodborne illness in the UK. Join us.

A quarter of a million people

Do you remember the London 2012 opening ceremony and the Olympic stadium filled to bursting point with spectators? Now, try to envisage that huge crowd multiplied by three. You can do the same with Murrayfield in Edinburgh and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. With Windsor Park in Belfast, try multiplying the crowd nine times over.

That’s about a quarter of a million people. That’s how many people in the UK could be struck down by campylobacter this year.

What is campylobacter?

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. You can’t see it, smell it or even taste it on food, but if it affects you, you won’t forget it. At its worst, it can kill you. But if we work together we can eliminate the risks.

Campylobacter poisoning usually develops a few days after consuming contaminated food and leads to symptoms that include abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and, sometimes, vomiting, It can last for between 2 and 10 days and can be particularly severe in small children and the elderly. In some cases, it can affect you forever – sparking off irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reactive arthritis and in rare cases, Guillain-Barré syndrome – a serious and sometimes permanent condition of the nervous system.

There were more than 72,000 confirmed lab reports of people suffering from campylobacter poisoning last year. Most of them survived, but not all.

We are continuing to analyse the full impact that campylobacter has, but previous estimates have indicated that campylobacter causes more than 100 deaths a year, and costs the UK economy about £900 million. It’s an unacceptably high public health burden, and the main responsibility for addressing this rests with the food industry.

Infographic thumbnail: your quick guide to campylobacter

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How do you get it?

About four in five cases of campylobacter poisoning in the UK come from contaminated poultry. One of the main ways to get and spread campylobacter poisoning is through touching raw chicken – in particular, washing raw chicken can spread campylobacter by splashing it onto work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment.

We know from research that most people don’t know about or don’t follow advice about handling and preparing raw chicken, and may not realise that they could be spreading dangerous germs. But, taking simple steps will stop it spreading and cooking poultry properly will kill it.

Case studies

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By acting on campylobacter together we can stop it

Don't wash raw chicken

The FSA is spearheading a campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. The fight against campylobacter will be at the centre of this year’s Food Safety Week (16–22 June): food.gov.uk/fsw-2014. The planned day by day schedule for can be found via the link towards the end of this page.

Local authorities will be working to spread the word, alongside commercial partners and the media. All the major supermarkets will be joining the campaign with features on campylobacter in their customer and staff magazines and on their websites, including when people are buying fresh chicken for home delivery. They have also committed to clearer labels on their raw chicken and turkey advising people not to wash these products before cooking.

The British Poultry Council and the National Farming Union are on board.

You’ll see the progress we are making

The poultry supply industry needs to make some significant changes but producers, processors, caterers and retailers have all committed to their part in the fight against campylobacter. Consumers will be able to be the judges of any progress, or lack of progress, that they make.

On a quarterly basis over the next year, the FSA will release the results of tests carried out on about 1,000 samples of chicken being sold by UK retailers. In 2015, we will publish a statistical analysis of the first full-year survey. The information published for each sample will include details about where the chicken was bought, the abattoir that processed it, whether or not the sample contained campylobacter and if so, how heavily it was contaminated.

Everyone is working hard to solve this:

  • UK Government: to lobby in the European Union for better hygiene controls, and to hold industry to account
  • farmers and producers: to reduce the number of flocks of broilers (chickens grown for meat) that contain campylobacter when they are presented for slaughter
  • slaughterhouses and processors: to make sure that the processes they use keep levels of contamination in the birds they produce to a minimum
  • caterers: to make sure that they and their staff are aware of the risks from raw poultry and work harder to avoid cross-contamination during handling or from under-cooking
  • local government partners: to help raise awareness of campylobacter and ensure that food businesses using chilled poultry meat are aware of the risks and keeping to the highest standards of hygiene
  • retailers and supermarkets: to play their role by advising their customers not to wash raw chicken and to cook it thoroughly
  • consumers: to reflect on whether the way that they handle food in their homes risks food poisoning for themselves and their families

But, by acting on campylobacter together we can provide safer food for the nation and save lives. Will you do your part?

Our invitation to you

We invite your support in making a visible and vocal pledge in Acting on Campylobacter Together.

We invite you to:

  • use the Acting on Campylobacter Together emblem on your website to show the work you are doing to tackle the problem
  • include the emblem on any relevant publications, press releases or at events to acknowledge the shared nature of the solution as well as highlighting your own contributions
  • use the phrase when speaking publically about the actions you are taking on reducing campylobacter
Acting on Campylobacter Together emblem (landscape)

High resolution version: Acting on Campylobacter Together emblem (landscape)

Acting on Campylobacter Together emblem (portrait)

High resolution version: Acting on Campylobacter Together emblem (portrait)

Our campaign partners

Logos of retailer and other food industry partners

Below are statements from our retailer and other food industry partners.

Aldi

Aldi fully supports the FSA’s Food Safety Week. As a responsible retailer, we are committed to broadening the understanding around food safety and therefore, along with the Food Standards Agency, would like to advise customers to not wash chicken before cooking.

Asda

Asda acknowledges the effort, commitment and the priority that the FSA has placed on the issue of campylobacter.

We reflect the priority of the FSA within our own plans.

We put forward the following as evidence of our commitment:

  • We are engaged with the farming community via our suppliers and growers through 'poultry link'.
  • We have supported the introduction of a revised Red Tractor agricultural standard prioritising enhanced bio-security.
  • Supported process trials for decontamination methods using both Rapid Surface Chill and Sonosteam with time and hand's-on involvement.
  • We support Food Safety Week activities and will promote the aims and objectives.
  • We have launched an innovative range of oven ready packaged flavoured poultry to address consumers concerns around handling raw chicken.
  • We support the FSA Joint Working Group process, as we believe this is an essential part of building a consensus and a shared solution.

British Poultry Council

The British Poultry Council is convinced that working together is the only sure way to beat campylobacter, and that’s why we’re backing the ACT initiative. The FSA is doing a great job in letting consumers know how they can help, and industry is working hard to produce safe, wholesome, and nutritious food for British families.

British Retail Consortium

The BRC fully support the ACT campaign and believe that the key to success is a collaborative approach with industry government and consumers taking responsibility. Retailers, the poultry industry and government are actively researching into solutions to understand and reduce campylobacter and we urge consumers to take heed of good hygiene practice messages when storing and preparing food.

The Co-operative Food

The Co-operative is fully supportive of the Food Standards Agency campaign of ‘Don’t wash Chicken’ during Food Safety Week. Our advice to customers is ‘Don’t wash chicken’ and we are committed to widening understanding about food hygiene by working with the Food Standards Agency and the industry on this campaign to spread the message. We are committed to the reduction of Campylobacter in Food and working closely with industry partners to delivery on this strategy.

We source our British fresh chicken through our Farming Group model which enables us to work collaboratively with our farmers and suppliers to reduce the incidence of Campylobacter in chickens. We are members of the FSA Joint Working Group and have developed our own action plan with our board’s support to focus our work and research.

We are a co-funding partner on Campylobacter research with the University of Liverpool. On farms and in agriculture we work with our farmers direct through our Farming Groups on best practice, biosecurity and we are co-funding the Farmer Incentive Scheme and Non-thinning trials. We are working closely with our supply base and through the processing working group on identifying processing interventions. All of our chicken products are clearly labelled with clear cooking and safety instructions on how to cook and handle chicken safely. We include these messages on all recipes and in our food magazine. We have moved all of our whole chickens to a leak proof packaging format at the early stages of our action plan to deliver a safe packaging solution for our customers. Recently we have developed a range of ovenable chicken products to enable our customers to place them directly into the oven avoiding further handling and reducing the risk of cross contamination further. We are also a member of the FSA communications group looking at consumer messages and engagement.

We are committed to the reduction of Campylobacter in Food and working closely with industry partners and the Food Standards Agency to delivery on this strategy.

Iceland

Iceland has board level commitment to providing customers with safe, quality food. We fully support the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) 'Don’t wash your chicken' campaign for chilled poultry. Iceland also offers a wide range of “Roast From Frozen” poultry for customers who want the convenience of cooking straight from frozen, with minimal food handling.

Iceland continues to work collaboratively with the FSA, British Retail Consortium, other food retailers, poultry suppliers and academic experts, as part of the wider effort to reduce the incidence of campylobacter in UK chilled, raw poultry. During Food Safety Week, Iceland will link up with the FSA campaign and promote safe food handling and cooking messages via Website and Social Media features.

All Iceland own label products must be produced in accordance with an agreed product specification. For raw chilled poultry any presence of campylobacter, whether detected during testing by our suppliers or by Iceland’s appointed independent laboratory, triggers further investigation of the raw material.

Lidl

Lidl UK are committed to increasing consumer awareness of food safety and are fully supportive of the Food Standards Agency message 'Don't Wash Chicken'. We will be communicating this important message to our customers during this year's Food Safety Week.

Marks & Spencer

Food safety is our number one supply chain priority, and we have developed a 7-point campylobacter eradication strategy – supported by a cross disciplinary team. The eradication strategy is one of our key business objectives, and we have appointed Campden BRI to independently monitor progress with a programme of weekly product testing.

Fundamental research is still needed to understand and control the microorganism – hence we are actively involved in the FSA/BBSRC campylobacter research panel to identify appropriate R&D work-streams. Moreover, we are a funding partner of a campylobacter research project by the University of Liverpool Veterinary School. We are active members of the industry Joint Working Group, and are involved in the various research projects - including co-funding the Farmer Incentive Scheme and non-thinning trials. We are also a member of the FSA communications group looking at consumer engagement.

In addition to research, our strategy also includes bio-security (above and beyond the national farm assurance schemes), processing interventions, improved process efficiency models, use of leak-proof packaging, customer education and stakeholder engagement (so we can collectively share lessons learnt).

Importantly, we encourage all our customers not to wash chicken - and provide them with clear on-pack advice on how to prepare poultry safely.

Morrisons

Morrisons takes its responsibilities towards public health very seriously and is fully committed to supporting the FSA in finding ways to reduce the level of campylobacter in UK chickens.

As well as being a member and active contributor to the FSA Joint Working Group into campylobacter reduction Morrisons also contributes funding towards research with Liverpool University into the organism.

Morrisons is working with its chicken suppliers to find and share innovative practices in reducing the levels of campylobacter in farming and processing. Regular project meetings are held with key suppliers to review results of ongoing testing and to review project updates

Morrisons is currently updating all its fresh chicken labelling to reflect the 'Do not wash' messaging as highlighted by this year’s Food Safety Week.

Moy Park

Moy Park fully supports the Food Standards Agency's 'don’t wash raw chicken' campaign. We have introduced ‘No need to wash’ labels on our whole bird packaging and have produced a video for our website showing people how to prepare and cook chicken safely.

Our research confirms chicken is perfectly safe when cooked and prepared properly and this FSA campaign helps to raise awareness that there is no need to wash chicken.

Sainsbury's

  • Food safety is a top priority for Sainsbury’s.
  • All of our fresh and frozen chicken is sourced from approved British suppliers.
  • All chicken products are clearly labelled with cooking instructions and food safety tips on how to cook and handle the product safely. We have for many years had on-pack labelling advising customers not to wash chickens and we are simplifying this message to be consistent with the FSA campaign i.e. ‘Don’t wash’.
  • We also provide food safety advice on our website that has been enhanced to specifically reference the risk from campylobacter and the advice to avoid washing.
  • We continue to work with our suppliers, the Food Standards Agency and industry experts to ensure our products meet the highest standards in the industry and are examining interventions at farm level e.g. biosecurity, breed and feed; at processing e.g. surface chilling; and at retail e.g. leak-proof packaging.
  • Sainsbury’s is committed to working with the entire food chain to tackle the challenge presented by campylobacter in chicken.

Tesco

Tesco are committed to the reduction of Campylobacter in poultry. We have been working in close collaboration with our suppliers and the industry Joint Working Group. Since this is a problem which requires a multi-faceted approach we have an action plan that concentrates on all the stages of the supply chain.

At farm level we funded the first farmer incentive trial, rewarding farmers who were able to keep flocks free of Campylobacter, and are now co-funding larger incentive based trials. We are part of a ‘no thinning’ trial and are engaged with our suppliers through regular workshops to assess the impact of a series of innovative biosecurity initiatives.

In the processing part of the supply chain we are committed to facilitating the introduction of rapid surface chilling as soon as it has been shown to be effective at commercial scale. We have worked with suppliers to ensure processing hygiene achieves the highest possible standards and continue to work with them on equipment trials and other promising developments that may lead to further improvements in the future.

We introduced leak-proof packaging for our poultry several years ago, and have provided hygiene advice to our customers including instructions not to wash chicken on packaging for many years. Using our multichannel communications, we provide food safety advice for customers on how to cook and prepare poultry safely.

As much more needs to be understood about the science of Campylobacter, we also actively fund research and have been part of a 3-year collaborative project working with the industry and Liverpool University.

We fully support the Food Safety Week initiative and will be sharing the ‘do not wash’ message with our customers and colleagues.

Waitrose

Waitrose and its supplier commitment to tackling campylobacter.

Waitrose fully supports the Food Standards Agency’s Food Safety Week campaign encouraging consumers not to wash raw chicken.

Along with the FSA, our suppliers and other food businesses, we're working hard to reduce and remove campylobacter from chicken and to find new solutions to this issue.

Consumers play a part too in ensuring they always handle raw chicken safely according to retailer and FSA guidelines; do not wash the birds and cook them thoroughly. This approach ensures that chicken can always be enjoyed safely. Some of our chicken also comes ready to cook in a roasting bag which is a great option for the busy cook.

These are some of things we have been doing in the fight against campylobacter:

  • For customers who don’t want to handle raw chicken, we offer a 1.5kg bird already in a roasting bag that can be popped straight into the oven.
  • Waitrose pioneered the sale of chicken in hermetically sealed packaging.
  • Our labels clearly state that customers should not wash chicken.
  • We only source our fresh chicken from family run farms ensuring traceability, great animal welfare and biosecurity.
  • We have fully supported Food Safety Week across our publications, with our teams in our shops, on social media and waitrose.com.
  • We are members of the FSA’s Joint Working Group on campylobacter and have been since its inception.
  • As an individual business we take this issue very seriously and have an in house team regularly monitoring progress.
  • We were one of the retailers to fund on farm research into the effects of on farm bio security on levels of campylobacter.
  • We have funded a number of on farm research projects with Liverpool University.
  • Along with our supplier Moy Park, we have kept our farmers up to date with the latest understanding of campylobacter.
  • We proudly supported the recent National Farmers Union Conference on the topic.
  • We hosted our own campylobacter workshop with Professor Chris Elliot - representatives of the FSA attended.
  • Our suppliers, Moy Park are closely involved in Rapid Surface Chilling research and other possible solutions to the campylobacter issue.
  • Our suppliers have hosted Catherine Brown and other senior FSA team members to demonstrate exactly what is being done.
  • We communicated the 'Do not wash chicken' message on our Waitrose Saturday Kitchen television programme, which is broadcast on Channel 4 on Saturday mornings.

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