Rapid Surface Chilling, a new cryogenic technology developed by Bernard Matthews Ltd and BOC, could enable the poultry industry and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK to meet their 2015 joint Campylobacter reduction target.
Campylobacter bacterium is found on the surface of almost all raw chicken and is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK with an estimated 500,000 cases leading to 80,000 primary care consultations and, in 2012, 85 deaths.
The cost to the UK economy is estimated to be in the region of £900m representing over half of the total cost of food-related illness.
BOC and Bernard Matthews, the UK’s leading turkey farmer and supplier, have developed a new technology – which involves rapid chilling of the surface of the poultry using cryogenic vapour – in collaboration with the FSA and Campden BRI. The only independently verified treatment for campylobacter currently available, Rapid Surface Chilling (RSC) technology uses cryogenically cooled liquid nitrogen delivered at approximately -196°C.
This does not affect the taste, texture or appearance of the chicken and complies with current poultry meat marketing regulations. Industrial trials with a first prototype tunnel successfully demonstrated that RSC technology reduced campylobacter counts in chickens by an average of 90%.
Following industrial pilot trials in 2013/2014, BOC has continued to work actively with leading poultry suppliers and is now seeking agreement to start a full scale, in-line trial using RSC technology in spring/summer 2015.
RSC technology potentially represents a significant step forwards towards meaningful reductions in Campylobacter infection and offers an independently validated solution to an enormous and serious health concern in the broiler industry.
The FSA’s 2015 target is to reduce the numbers of birds carrying the highest levels of contamination from 27% of the total population slaughtered in the UK – more than 800 million per year – to 10%.