Two thirds of fresh chickens sold in Britain are contaminated by the potentially deadly campylobacter bug.
Over a quarter of a million people are poisoned every year in the U.K. by this bacterium; and the majority of infections are caused by contaminated chicken. Although the bug can be killed by thorough cooking, 280,000 people in the U.K. get sick each year from it, and at least 100 people die from it. Contamination rates are known to have increased in the past decade.
Why is this happening? The Guardian newspaper decided to launch an investigation to find out why chicken is making so many British people sick.
What they found was horrific.
Factory Floor Flooded With Chicken Guts
Using undercover footage, photographic evidence and information from whistleblowers, investigators discovered that strict industry hygiene standards to prevent the contamination of chicken with the potentially deadly campylobacter bug are ignored both on the factory floor and on farms.
Specific incidents identified included a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line, and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.
As a result, three of the U.K.’s leading supermarkets, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer, have launched emergency investigations into their chicken supplies.
The Real Scandal: Government Cover-Up
The U.K. government, on the other hand, seems to be employing a “wait and see” approach: the Food Standards Agency (FSA) decided to shelve a promise to name and shame supermarkets and processors for their campylobacter rates, after pressure from the poultry industry and other government departments.
As The Guardian reports:
…an abattoir in Scunthorpe, in the north of England, owned by the U.K.’s largest poultry processor, 2 Sisters, supplies many of the leading supermarkets and fast-food restaurants. When the lines are running fast, chickens fall on the floor. They should go in to red bins for waste, not blue bins for human food. Our undercover filming shows a manager picking one up and throwing it back in to food production. 2 Sisters told us it had spoken to the individual concerned. The Food Standards Agency inspected the factory after seeing our film. It says there will be no penalty because the company has taken action to ensure this does not happen again. The FSA rated the factory as “good”.
Of course, we already know about the horrific conditions that exist at many factory farms. Now we are also learning, perhaps not surprisingly, how the poultry industry disdains both the chickens it is raising, and the health of the humans those chickens are destined for.
The horsemeat scandal of last year is still fresh in the minds of British consumers: the discovery of horsemeat in processed beef products sold by a number of U.K. supermarket chains resulted in a series of product recalls and threw the spotlight on the food industry’s supply chain. It also inspired a stricter food testing regime across Europe.
As a result, it was reported that around six in ten of all consumers of frozen beef burgers decided to give up red meat altogether.
How to Make Sure Your Chicken Is Safe
It’s a pretty safe bet that factory farmed chickens worldwide suffer from the same horrific conditions and possible contaminations, so how to avoid getting sick?
* GO to a local, independent butcher, not a supermarket;
* BUY directly from a farm or a farmers’ market;
* DECODE the buzzwords, such as organic, grass-fed, free range, outdoor bred, to make sure you know what you are buying.
Best of all, avoid chicken and all meats!
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
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