Campylobacter: FSA hails industry action

Brown: We need sustained management attention

The FSA has defended its public criticism of the poultry industry over campylobacter, saying its tough language has helped put the issue top of the agenda with senior executives at retailers and suppliers.

In an interview with The Grocer earlier this year, CEO Catherine Brown castigated the industry for “brushing” campylobacter - a major cause of food poisoning that kills about 110 people a year in the UK - “under the carpet”.

This week, as she launched the FSA’s new campylobacter strategy, Brown said she had noticed much greater engagement from senior industry figures.

“This is not about finger-pointing,” Brown said. “But for us to make real progress on campylobacter, we need sustained senior management attention, and I am very pleased there’s now greater recognition of that on the part of industry leaders.”

She said that 2 Sisters CEO Ranjit Singh had contacted her personally to talk her through 2 Sisters’ “much more aggressive desire to eradicate campylobacter”.

At M&S, “very, very senior management were now monitoring campylobacter figures weekly,” she added. “That’s well beyond what we require.”

The key challenge now was to ensure industry leaders like 2 Sisters and M&S “take everyone else with them”, Brown said.

“Fighting campylobacter is not about competitive advantage, but about protecting the whole industry from the impact of a possible consumer scare,” she added.

The FSA report revealed no progress had been made in reducing campylobacter rates in the UK. “It’s a very complicated bug to deal with, and there won’t be a single solution or silver bullet, said Brown. “It will require consistent efforts by everyone.”