Call for improved hygiene in slaughterhouses

Every second chicken sample contains pathogens

Rohes Hähnchenfleisch.

More than half of chicken samples tested in Germany in 2017 contained diarrheal pathogens.

BERLIN. Recent testing revealed that more than half of chicken samples contained pathogens.  Children, the elderly and pregnant women are especially at risk.  Experts call for improved hygiene in slaughterhouses. 

More than every second sample of chicken meat tested in the German food retail trade is contaminated with a diarrheal pathogen that can lead to dangerous illness, especially in people with weak immune systems. Last year (2018), 51.8 percent of chicken meat samples contained the pathogenic bacteria Campylobacter. In 2011, only 31.6 percent of the samples contained Campylobacter.  The information comes from a response of the German government to a written inquiry made by Anton Hofreiter, leader of the Green party parliamentary group.

In a copy obtained by GA, it was stated that the pathogen was found in even 78.8 percent of the samples taken in 2017 by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL).  The testing was done at chicken slaughterhouses in Germany. In 2011, the figure was 40.9 percent.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, the pathogen results in 60,000 to 70,000 reported illnesses per year. That is 80 to 90 cases per 100,000 people. Children, the elderly and pregnant women are especially often affected. The harmful agents can be killed by cooking or freezing the chicken. But if the chicken is not cooked all the way through, even small concentrations of the pathogenic bacteria can sometimes cause serious illness. 

The Federal Government's figures show that the prevalence of the diarrheal pathogen has increased significantly in recent years. The reasons for the unchecked spread are mainly to be found in the slaughterhouses. According to experts, too little is done in the way of hygiene measures to reduce the pathogens. Instruments used for cutting are not cleaned enough. German slaughterhouses generally work on a job-by-job basis and pay is below average. And there are sometimes gaps in the cold chain from farm to retail trade.

 "The Federal Government does not seem to care that more and more diarrheal pathogens are found in meat and that the number of infections is increasing," Hofreiter criticized. The government must ensure more hygiene in the slaughterhouses. "This includes the Federal Government in Brussels working to ensure that the limit levels for contamination are significantly improved," Hofreiter urged. "Infections caused by germs transmitted from animals to humans must be taken seriously. Even antibiotic-resistant germs can be transmitted via food and pose a considerable risk," warned consumer protection chief Klaus Müller. "Many pathogens can be transmitted from animals to meat during slaughter. For that reason, it is crucial that slaughterhouses are better controlled and committed to improved hygiene measures".

It is just as important that manufacturers and retailers comply with the cold chain. "With hygiene and management measures, companies must ensure that farm animals are generally healthier and only receive antibiotics in exceptional cases."

(Orig. text: Birgit Marschall, Thomas Reisener, Translation: ck)