The FSA has suspended its quarterly survey for campylobacter in supermarket chickens and is set to transfer the responsibility for testing to retailers.
At the same time, it is proposing a switch to testing annually every summer when campylobacter is most prevalent instead of quarterly tests.
“We have asked retailers whether they are prepared to commit in principle not just to publish an analysis of their own data, but to also publish openly the supporting data to standards we have set,” policy director Steve Wearne said at an FSA board meeting this week.
So far, only M&S had agreed, but Wearne said he was confident others would follow. “We need to work through the detail as retailers come on stream, but I believe this is a development of strategic importance, based on the principle our future role is not to collect or warehouse data ourselves but to set standards and support the publication of open data and support the industry.”
Action taken by retailers and processors to tackle the bug had given the FSA “increasing confidence” an industry-wide target to reduce the most heavily contaminated birds to less than 10% would be met by the end of this year, Wearne added.
As a result, the FSA would now focus on “wider public health outcomes” instead of testing, and had proposed a new target to cut human cases of campylobacter by 100,000 a year. The most recent FSA data suggests there are about 280,000 cases a year in the UK.
“We recognise this is a stretch target and hugely ambitious, but it is within our reach,” Wearne said.
The FSA planned to achieve its target by engaging with EU partners on future poultry controls, by turning its focus to “the contribution of smaller independent producers and the sectors they supply”, and by “continuing pressure on on the industry to implement successful interventions”, he said.