According to the Cabinet Office report ‘Food Matters’, food is as safe as it has ever been. Nevertheless, it is estimated that there are still around 765,000 cases of food poisoning each year in England and Wales and although the rate is declining, deaths due to Listeria are increasing.
Microbiological contamination of meat supply chains is a continuing challenge, as is the threat of diseases transferring to humans from animals and poultry (including avian influenza).
Most food poisoning is due to microbiological contamination (such as chicken contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria) rather than chemical contamination (like harmful dyes or environmental contaminants). But reducing microbiological contamination of certain foods, particularly poultry, remains a real challenge.
Intensive poultry farming and animal rearing makes it difficult to trace food back to its source, distances food manufacturers from the environmental and social impacts of their products, and puts consumer health and safety at risk.
By treating meat as a commodity and sourcing bulk processed foods through international supply chains, a mixture of meat or chicken from around the world can end up in one burger or chicken nugget. This can make it virtually impossible to identify the source of a food poisoning outbreak.
To ensure a reduction in food poisoning, food manufacturers must take responsibility for food hygiene practices, from farm to fork, along complex and lengthening supply chains.