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2 Sisters Food Group is doing more than any other food processor or retailer in leading the fight against campylobacter.

In 2013, we launched the UK’s largest study aimed at helping the poultry industry reduce campylobacter levels in chickens.

Working in conjunction with the FSA (Food Standards Agency), DEFRA and a number of our retail customers, 2 Sisters’ objective is to ensure the study will generate robust data to make a significant contribution in tackling campylobacter throughout the industry.

The year-long trials, costing in excess of £10m, are taking place at more than 90 farms in East Anglia and Lincolnshire, and ultimately draw data from a throughput of more than 124 million birds. The first tranche of data will be published in 2015.

2 Sisters Food Group has also appointed The Food Animal Initiative to oversee the studies on behalf of the Group and its retail partners.

The study aims to understand:

  • Campylobacter levels today through comprehensive monitoring of flocks both at pre-thin and depopulation.
  •  Whether incentivising producers to reduce flock colonisation through a financial incentive reduces levels of campylobacter 
  •  The effect on campylobacter levels in finished packs of poultry when thinning is stopped.

Ranjit Singh, CEO of 2 Sisters Food Group, said: “As a company we recognise that the progress towards the FSA targets on campylobacter has not been fast enough. 

“These studies potentially require significant changes to the way we grow chickens in the future -  but the first stage is to know whether they will actually work.  We have partnered with The Food Animal Initiative to ensure the science is robust and can be used to inform the wider industry.”

The studies have been welcomed by a number of 2 Sisters’ retail customers including M&S, Co-op and Tesco, who are making a financial contribution to these important studies.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. It is considered to be responsible for around 460,000 cases of food poisoning each year and most of these cases come from poultry. Campylobacter can also be found in red meat, unpasteurised milk and untreated water.

The presence of the bug in poultry is harmless to humans as long as the meat is handled and stored correctly and the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

The Food Standards Agency, Defra, the UK poultry industry, and major retailers have agreed a new target that will measure efforts to reduce the levels of the food bug campylobacter in chickens.

There are three categories of contamination levels and, currently, 27% of birds are in the highest category.

The new target is for the industry to reduce the numbers of these most contaminated birds in UK poultry houses from 27% to 10% by 2015.

It is estimated that achievement of this target could mean a reduction in campylobacter food poisoning of up to 30% – about 111,000 cases per year.