Open Cages Lidl tested chicken

Source: Open Cages 

An investigation by Open Cages claimed Lidl chickens tested by the group contained several antibiotic resistant bugs

Lidl is pursuing legal action against animal welfare group Open Cages over what it claims is a “defamatory” investigation linking its fresh chicken to antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’.

Open Cages’ investigation, which appeared in The Times on Monday, examined 40 fresh chicken products sold in five of Lidl’s UK stores under its flagship Birchwood British chicken brand.

The campaign group claimed microbiological tests then performed by an independent lab in Germany showed 58% of the chicken lines contained multi-resistant bacteria (ESBL or MRSA), while faecal bacteria e.coli was found on 47.5% of products and listeria on 30%.

One of the major causes of resistant bacteria in the meat was poor animal welfare and the use of fast-growing breeds, also known as ‘Frankenchickens’, it claimed, pointing to Lidl’s failure to sign up to the industry-wide Better Chicken Commitment.

But in response, Lidl this week told The Grocer there were a series of discrepancies in the group’s investigation.

It outlined concerns over the efficacy of the tests and the methodology employed, coupled with a lack of detail over the results, context on whether the presence of bugs fell within or outside legal limits and a lack of comparison with chicken sold by Lidl’s rivals.

Read more: Tesco moves to lower chicken stocking densities but stops short of Better Chicken Commitment

Food safety was a priority for Lidl, it said in a statement. 

“We work closely with our suppliers and a multitude of industry partners, aligning our policies with the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) and the Food Industry Initiative on Antimicrobials to ensure the responsible and RUMA-recommended use of antibiotics, while ensuring animal welfare remains a priority.”

Its testing also showed there had been no deviations outside legal levels over the past 12 months, Lidl pointed out, “and no concerns have been raised to us by any regulatory bodies on this topic”, the retailer added.

“It’s therefore evident and extremely concerning Open Cages continues to disseminate false and inaccurate information, with the apparent aim of both scaremongering and misleading the public,” Lidl said.

If Open Cages has any real and verified concerns regarding the presence of pathogens in fresh British chicken, we encourage it to work with verified sources and share its complete findings with either ourselves or with the FSA for further investigation.”

As a result, Lidl said it “cannot accept Open Cages defaming our company in this way and are now left with no choice but to pursue legal action”. 

In response, Open Cages this week said: “This is the first we’ve heard of any legal action. If any further information comes we’ll take a look and consult with our lawyers.”