Positive results that could enable the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to meet its 2015 Campylobacter reduction targets have been seen in trials of a new cryogenic technology developed by Bernard Matthews Ltd and BOC, the UK’s largest industrial gases supplier.

Campylobacter bacterium is found on the surface of almost all raw chicken and is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK with ca 500,000 cases leading, in 2012, to 85 deaths. The cost to the UK economy is estimated to be ca £900m representing over half of the total cost of food-related illness.

BOC (www.BOConline.co.uk/Campylobacter), a member of The Linde Group, and Bernard Matthews have developed the technology – which involves rapid chilling of the surface of the poultry using a cryogenic vapour – in collaboration with the FSA and Campden BRI. An industrial scale inline trial of the Rapid Surface Chilling™ process is now underway.

The FSA’s 2015 target is to reduce the numbers of birds carrying the highest levels of contamination from 27 per cent of the total population slaughtered in the UK – more than 800 million a year – to 10 per cent. Results from initial batch trials indicate that Rapid Surface Chilling™ is an effective intervention that could enable the FSA to meet its targets.

An industrial inline trial using patent-applied-for process and technology has already started at a leading poultry processor and member of the Campylobacter Joint Working Group with very positive initial results. During the next few weeks the trial will statistically validate the solution, ensure current poultry meat marketing regulations are adhered to and gain FSA and EU approval and support for commercial introduction.

Jeremy Hall, Technical Director of Bernard Matthews Ltd, commented: “This is a key milestone in the development of a solution to an enormous and serious health concern in the broiler industry. These latest results are good news for the UK consumer and endorse the considerable efforts we are putting in to help reduce Campylobacter at the poultry processing stage.”

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