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Consider Removing Fresh Chicken From Sale

Consider Removing Fresh Chicken From Sale, Says Pha

Media release, 14 August 2006

The Public Health Association (PHA) is supporting calls from University of Otago public health researchers for New Zealand to seriously consider banning the sale of fresh chicken for human consumption, and switch to frozen chicken instead.

PHA Director Dr Gay Keating says such a move may be the best way to start reducing the country's serious campylobacter epidemic. On tonight’s 60 Minutes programme, Dr Michael Baker from the Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Otago University, called for fresh chicken to be removed from the nation’s food supply.

Dr Keating says that while removing fresh chicken from sale sounds like a drastic measure, it might be necessary if we are to address New Zealand’s dubious distinction of being the campylobacter centre of the world.

“The current advice is to cook chicken thoroughly and wash benches, knives, cloths and hands in very hot water with detergent. But that is the advice that has been put forward for decades, and it has not prevented New Zealand from becoming top of the pops in campylobacter. It’s clear that current recommended practices for handling chicken are far from being enough, so we need to try other options.

“We know that New Zealand’s fresh chicken is heavily contaminated. It’s time to start to look at how to reduce the contamination in the first place - such as a possible ban on the sale of fresh chicken.” She says other measures used overseas include reducing contamination levels in poultry flocks.

Dr Keating called upon the poultry industry, regulators, scientists and consumer organisations to discuss the science and scale of the problem, and how it could be addressed without further delays.

“Safe food is an absolute pre-requisite for health. It is not acceptable to sell a food that is heavily contaminated with bacteria that is making thousands of New Zealanders sick each month, and sending many to hospital.”


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