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FSA announces additions to Campylobacter strategy

NZFSA announces additions to Campylobacter strategy

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority's updated Campylobacter in Poultry Risk Management Strategy identifies some stringent additions that it anticipates will lead to significant reductions in this country's high levels of human campylobacteriosis.

Together with the poultry industry, NZFSA will introduce an interim performance target that aims to see human cases of foodborne campylobacteriosis fall by 50 percent over the next five years.

This approach seeks to encourage the greatest reductions in bacteria numbers as early as possible in the processing food chain. The interim performance target that the poultry industry has agreed to meet represents a 90 percent reduction in current contamination levels and will be mandated from 1 April 2008. This time lag will allow industry sufficient time to put the necessary changes to production systems in place, and introduce new food safety technologies.

With the support of the poultry industry, NZFSA will take strong action against premises that do not meet the target. Ultimately, sanctions could escalate to closing down poor-performing premises.

"Like the rest of New Zealand, NZFSA is very concerned about this country's high levels of Campylobacter, but mandatory freezing of poultry across all of industry is not a practical or effective option, or one that New Zealand consumers appear keen to adopt," says Dr Andrew McKenzie, NZFSA's Acting Chief Executive. "NZFSA has decided to take a science-based approach to implementing controls.

"Precipitous decisions could add high costs with no benefits to consumers, and this is unacceptable." Dr McKenzie says he is hopeful that mandating a performance target will considerably reduce human cases of campylobacteriosis while leaving the intervention decisions to industry.

This, together with a range of other measures being introduced as a consequence of NZFSA's Campylobacter Strategy, should significantly reduce foodborne Campylobacter infections in New Zealand. However, the rate of reduction is open to conjecture and re-evaluation of the performance target will take place as soon as enough human illness data becomes available.

"Additional interventions further along the processing, packaging and retail continuum are being progressed and there already is much work being done by the retail sector that will minimise cross contamination.

"This is a complex problem and New Zealand is just one of dozens of countries grappling with it." While poultry is recognised as the primary pathway for over half the country's reported rates of foodborne campylobacteriosis, NZFSA is also looking at the environment, food in shops, and domestic animals in efforts to reduce the country's unacceptably high infection rates.

NZFSA continues to stress the need for ongoing consumer vigilance in the home. "While everything possible is presently being done to improve this country's high rates of campylobacteriosis, New Zealanders need to heed our simple Clean, Cook, Cover, Chill and '20 seconds wash+20 seconds dry = clean hands' messages, which will help ensure they have the best chance of avoiding campylobacteriosis, as well as most other foodborne illnesses."

Campylobacter in Poultry Risk Management Strategy is available online at: www.nzfsa.govt.nz/consumers/food-safety-topics/foodborne-illnesses/campylo bacter/

ENDS

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