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NZFSA has the power to stop campylobacter epidemic

10 July 2006
NZFSA has the power to stop campylobacter epidemic

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is failing to uphold the law by allowing the ongoing sale of chicken meat that is contaminated with campylobacter, the Green Party says.

"The Food Safety Authority needs to explain to New Zealanders why it is ignoring the Food Act which clearly stipulates that it is illegal to sell any food that is contaminated, injurious to health or unfit for human consumption.

"While issuing food recalls for other contaminated foods, the Authority appears to be turning a blind eye to the sale of chicken meat that is very likely to be infected with campylobacter.

"Instead of demanding that the poultry industry clean up its act, its approach has been to blame on the consumer for failing to properly cook and handle the contaminated meat it is allowing to be sold."

The Authority's principal public health adviser Donald Campbell is reported today as saying the key was to put as many barriers in the way of the bacteria before the food is eaten.

"This is an appallingly lax attitude. It amounts to just treating the symptoms but failing to tackle the cause," Ms Kedgley says.

"The root of this problem lies in the poultry farms and the slaughter houses, and the solution is for the authority to get tough on the industry and demand that it clean up its act. In the absence of any penalty on selling contaminated meat there is no incentive on the poultry industry to do so.

"There should be a requirement for poultry producers to test meat to ensure that only non-contaminated product is sold."

Ms Kedgley said she would support other initiatives that have been proposed such as requiring warning labels on chicken and only permitting frozen chicken to be sold.

"Up to 100,000 New Zealanders are becoming ill with campylobacter each year, and about 500 people are hospitalised. The New Zealand taxpayer is picking up the tab for lax standards in the poultry industry.

"Chicken is a very popular food item. Urgent action must be taken to clean up the industry before more New Zealanders fall ill," Ms Kedgley says.

ENDS

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