ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

3 October 2001


The New Scientist article has already made the Prakash list! Yet not only does it ignore the fact, as Prof Cummins points out below, that it provides no evidence that organic fowl actually caused food poisoning, it also completely ignores the animal welfare issues that would arise if it is to be argued that in an effort to ward off birds having contact with bacteria they should all be forced to lead the short, confined and ugly lives of broiler chickens!!!!!!

----- Original Message -----
From: "joe cummins" <>
To: "Ban-Gef" <>
Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2001 12:37 PM
Subject: B-GE:bird brains

In the article below there was no actual evidence that organic fowl were foul and actually caused food poisoning.

Dirty Birds
- New Scientist 1 October, 2001 ; Journal ref: Letters in Applied Microb
(Vol 33, p269).

Organic broiler chickens are three times as likely as conventionally-bred poultry to be contaminated with a bacterium that causes food-poisoning, say Danish vets. The team at the Danish Veterinary Laboratory in Aarhus found that all 22 organic broiler flocks they investigated were infected with Campylobacter - the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. Only one third of 79 conventional broilerhouses were infected.

The organic movement is sound, but this is unwelcome news, says Karl Pedersen, who supervised the project. He says the result is not entirely surprising, since organic birds are allowed to roam outside and are more likely to be exposed to food and water contaminated with infected faeces from wild animals.  But it turns out that the difference was far higher than we expected, he says.

Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, says he was also unsurprised by the results.  'We're starting to see some of the organic myths about food safety debunked,' he says.

The UK Soil Association, which promotes organic farming, was unavailable for comment.

Unhygienic handling: It takes just 10 to 50 bacteria to pass on the infection, and faeces can contain a billion bacteria per gram.  The amount in faeces is extremely high, so one bird can infect many others, Pedersen says.

Conventionally-bred birds are slaughtered after around 38 days, whereas organic birds live twice as long, and so are more likely to pick up infections. And in most European countries, conventional broiler farmers grow and slaughter all their chickens at the same time, so empty broilerhouses can be thoroughly disinfected before the next batch of day-old chicks arrives.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in Britain. Although infections have levelled out over the past few years, cases have doubled since 1986, from 25,000 to 54,000 in 2000. In a survey published last month, Britainís Food Standards Agency found that half of all chickens sampled were contaminated with campylobacter.

Pedersen says that there is little that can be done to prevent infection if birds roam freely outside. He says the bacteria will not survive cooking, but could spread to other food items if contaminated carcasses are unhygienically handled in the kitchen.

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