Monday August 14, 2006
By Stephen Ward
The chicken industry says sales have remained steady despite the scare about high rates of human campylobacter infection.
A University of Otago study that appeared last month said New Zealand’s campylobacter rates were the world’s highest. One finding was that up to 90 per cent of fresh raw chicken was contaminated when sold to consumers.
But the Poultry Industry Association’s executive director, Michael Brooks, believes contamination rates are more like 30-40 per cent.
The association said some regions had seen a minor fluctuation in sales, but the overall trend remained steady.
It stressed that proper cooking of meat killed campylobacter.
The scare came after Meat and Wool New Zealand figures showed a decline in poultry consumption in the year to March, unrelated to campylobacter.
In the year to March, overall meat consumption rose 2.8 per cent. Poultry dropped 5.9 per cent overall but chicken remained the most eaten individual meat at 35.6kg a person.
Brooks noted that chicken’s drop had followed years of record increases in consumption.
“The year ended March 2006 figures were a result that was bound to happen as consumption cannot continue to grow at those levels forever.”
Meanwhile, the poultry association board has agreed on a number of campylobacter-related measures. They include trials of treatment options, sharing data with the NZ Food Safety Authority, improved food handling and preparation advice to consumers, and a review of advice on packaging.