Campylobacter - Public Health Crisis


19th April 2016


  • Poultry meat is the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year. The vast majority of cases are caused by Campylobacter which accounts for approximately 55% of UK food poisoning cases
  • One of the main factors increasing Campylobacter rates in poultry is the process of “thinning”, where a proportion of the (typically) 60,000 birds reared in a standard shed are removed for slaughter early, allowing the rest to grow to full size before slaughter a few days later. This causes stress to the birds and a potential break in biosecurity, and is known to increase rates of Campylobacter
  • Fortunately a number of supermarkets, led by M&S but also including the Co-Op, Morrisons and Aldi have responded by placing pressure on their suppliers to reduce the out-dated process of thinning, and this is evidently having a beneficial effect in reducing infection rates

  • Regrettably, these actions have not been fully supported by the Industry or policy-making bodies. The NFU published a Nuffield Scholars report in July 2015 on how Campylobacter had been reduced in 11 other countries. Their key recommendations included “The thinning of broiler sheds should be avoided where possible or phased out altogether”

  • Nine months later neither the National Farmers Union nor the British Poultry Council have clear policy statements on it

  • The Environment Agency are still granting permits that allow thinning to occur

  • DEFRA and EA need to act now

  • As a matter of urgency, we call upon:

    • The EA to refuse to grant any new Environmental Permits for poultry farms that use the thinning process; and
    • The poultry industry to introduce and publish clear targets and guidelines for reducing Campylobacter infection and phasing out the use of thinning in existing poultry units



The Public Health Crisis of Campylobacter in Poultry
Press Release by WPAG Campylobacter in C[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [889.4 KB]
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