At the last meeting of the Board of the Food Standard Agency a paper was tabled which gave some very disturbing statistics about food poisoning.
Campylobacter remains the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, killing around 100 people every year. Despite significant effort and investment by both industry and government, monitoring data shows that no progress has yet been made in reducing levels of campylobacter in chicken.
In 2012 there were 72,571 confirmed cases in the UK but this is known to be an underestimate due to underreporting. Out of an estimated total of around one million cases of foodborne disease each year, Campylobacter is considered to be responsible for around 460,000 cases, 22,000 hospitalisations and 110 deaths.
We at the BHA are working with the FSA to increase awareness of this issue amongst caterers. In particular we want caterers to be aware of risks and effectively control risk of illness when preparing potentially contaminated foods. In doing so we will make caterers aware that frozen poultry product present a lower Campylobacter risk but that it if it is used, care must be taken to minimise risks from cross-contamination during defrosting, storage and preparation. In addition defrosting must be carried out thoroughly to prevent under-cooking. We will be discussing this subject at our next Food Experts Committee meeting.