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spotlight on poultry processing after guardian investigation

How do you ensure food safety with tight margins and changing demand?

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By Rachel Arthur+

31-Jul-2014
Last updated on 31-Jul-2014 at 11:48 GMT

poultry processing food safety campylobacter

Poultry processing plants are not just talking about food safety: they are proactively looking to enhance measures throughout operations, says CMS Technology. 

Food safety was thrown into the spotlight recently when an investigation by the Guardian ‘uncovered a catalogue of alleged hygiene failings in the poultry industry’ in the UK.  

Poultry processors have to meet a growing demand for chicken while operating labor intensive businesses with tight margins, explains CMS Technology, a US company producing antimicrobials and other chemicals for food and packaging environments.

Investment

Although he was not able to comment on the UK investigation, John Meccia, CEO, CMS Technology, told FoodProductionDaily.com a consistent theme among US processors is seeking measures to enhance food safety.

Many [processors] are seeking to invest in new or enhanced intervention measures, whether at the beginning of processing in scalders, or during secondary processing, where new approaches can help mitigate pathogen risks related to cut parts or ground poultry.

The average American eats 100lbs of chicken each year. 

Processors have complex operations with multiple steps to deliver on the large and growing customer demand for chicken in the US (about 37 billion pounds annually)," said Meccia.

"This includes numerous intervention points where poultry is treated with technologies for reducing pathogens. 

This is a capital and labor intensive business with tight margins.  Measures aimed at more automated controls are among the most important ways to more efficiently run processing operations. 

"Such steps can not only help reduce costs for processors but also results in improved food safety through more directed and measurable intervention procedures.

CMS recently formed an alliance with the University of Georgia on technology to increase the safety of secondary poultry processing environments.

Campylobacter concerns

The Guardian’s five-month investigation resulted in allegations made against two of the largest UK poultry processors, 2 Sisters Food Group and Faccenda.

Its concerns centred on the bacteria campylobacter, which is present in two-thirds of British fresh chicken sold in the UK. The bug is killed by cooking, but 100 people are thought to die from it every year.

The investigation alleged chickens which fell on the floor were put back onto the production line at two 2 Sisters sites, which the company denies.

The Guardian said breakdowns led to high-risk material piling up for hours while production continued. The company responded they did not stop the line because of the welfare of chickens waiting in crates to be killed.

This week the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) gave 2 Sisters’ Anglesey and Scunthorpe sites the all clear , rating them as ‘generally satisfactory’ and ‘good’ respectively.

UK is ‘perfectly capable of delivering safe food’

Richard Griffiths, director of food policy, The British Poultry Council, told FoodProductionDaily.com processing practices are “perfectly capable of delivering safe food.

The Food Standards Agency response and outcomes of the audit give a fair reflection of the industry,” he said.

Processors are able to cope with changing demand, he added.

When dealing with livestock consistency of demand is an important element. Changes in orders can be challenging but the poultry industry is a modern and progressive industry which responds well to demands,” he said.

The systems and legislation in place are perfectly capable of delivering safe food. The poultry industry is modern and progressive, new technologies are being developed all the time and the legislative framework within which it sits is robust.”

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