Bacterial contamination of animal products and rising antibiotic resistance are two major public health concerns. You’ve probably heard of E.Coli in eggs, and Salmonella in chicken, but have you heard of Campylobacter?
Campylobacter is a type of bacteria that occurs in poultry, red meat, and untreated water. Symptoms of infection include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea; the diarrhoea can often contain blood.
“Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. It is considered to be responsible for about 460,000 cases of food poisoning, 22,000 hospitalisations and 110 deaths each year [in the UK], and a significant proportion of these cases come from poultry. A Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey of chicken on sale in the UK (2007/8) indicated that 65% of chicken on sale in shops was contaminated with campylobacter.” – UK Food Standards Agency 2008
- “…there is no evidence of change in the proportion of the most highly contaminated chickens since 2008.” – UK Food Standards Agency 2013
In the UK, the vast majority of all chickens farmed for human consumption never go outside. They are housed in overcrowded, warehouse-style buildings. They live for six weeks only. The litter they stand and sit on is never changed for their entire lives. Chickens spend their whole lives sitting and standing in urine, ammonia and faeces-soaked litter from thousands of different chickens. Today, chickens are bred to grow so quickly that many cannot take the weight of their own legs, and some develop bone fractures, meaning they are unable to stand up off the litter.
In July 2014, The Guardian newspaper published the shocking results of their investigation into Britain’s poultry industry. Their findings revealed that two thirds of the UK’s retail chicken is contaminated with Campylobacter. The accompanying video, Revealed: the dirty secret of the UK’s poultry industry, sent shock waves through the country.