Well, here we are.
One week on from Food Safety Week – one week on from the 2015 Chicken Challenge – and most of us are still alive. A roll of drumsticks please!
Yep, we’re learning.
Doing the bold thing
Thanks to sterling efforts by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), we’re all making the effort to avoid food poisoning from chicken by:
- keeping raw chicken separate from other all other food, where it can’t drip or leak on the bottom shelf of the fridge
- not washing raw chicken or splashing water from it around as this spreads highly contagious campylobacter germs
- actively washing everything that’s been in contact with raw chicken to remove germs from cutting boards, utensils, and of course hands – all with plenty of soap and hot water
- ensuring chicken is thoroughly cooked through – no more pink meat and juices running clear
Do all these things and we’re safe from the widespread campylobacter bug – the one that causes more of us to have cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea than any other common tummy germ.
Widespread? Oh yes. It’s the UK’s No 1 cause of tummy upsets.
Most birds, all birds
Hardly surprising as around 75% of all poultry has campylobacter resident in its gut. And we are a nation of chicken-eaters – 2.2 million chickens a week, 803 million chickens a year.
That’s a meal of chicken at least once a month for everyone in the UK.
Which has the FSA breathing fire and brimstone that poultry producers and the supermarkets should be doing something about it. They want birds with campylobacter reduced to zero. 280,000 people a year go ill with campylobacter – and this is the Twenty-First Century for goodness sake!
Other people are in on the act too. Like the consumer heavy who said: “It beggars belief that nearly three-quarters of chickens on sale in supermarkets are still infected with this potentially deadly bug and that no retailers have met the FSA’s target.”
Healthy as nature intended
Time to get real. You see, 75% of all poultry has campylobacter because it occurs naturally in birds. Their digestive system is not the same as ours, so the bacterium is benign, non-pathogenic, harmless.
Inhabited, yes, but not infected. All these birds are perfectly healthy.
Robbing them of campylobacter could even do them harm.
Besides, we know the dangers and how to fix them, why point a finger at the poultry farmers?
It’s like locking up cows because they get muddy feet. Well of course they do, they eat grass – and in this green, green, rain-drenched UK of ours, grass gets wet all the time, so mud is inevitable.
But we don’t penalise the cows for muddy feet – just like we don’t penalise chickens for having campylobacter.
We have a defence
Heat through pasteurisation kills the germs in milk – and heat through cooking kills the germs in chickens.
So yes, it’s right to make a fuss, the FSA is right. But not by controlling the birds.
By fixing the packaging.
By protecting us from any leaks or contamination from raw chicken meat, right through to the cooked birds which are harmless.
And yes, right now most packaging is pretty manky. Rack ’em, stack ’em, and pack ’em bargain basement stuff that leaks all over the place – no wonder we come down with the bug.
About the best are cook-in-the-bag prepared recipes. Safe because the chicken and all ingredients are sealed in to make sure the recipe works.
But check out any of the El Cheapo packs of wings and drumsticks – it’s a whole other story.
And if that stuff leaks on your other shopping, on in the fridge when you finally get it home, the family could be in for a really ropey few days.
Time for action
Yeah, so come on FSA – hit those guys hard for better packaging and everybody will be better off.
Until then though, don’t take chances. Keep your chicken in its own separate plastic wrapping away from everything else – and don’t forget to wash your hands. (Tweet this)