30 November 2010
A New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) operation to check the sourcing of chicken sold in Auckland restaurants and takeaway bars has produced pleasing results.
NZFSA assistant director of response Glen Neal says the two-day operation was planned because of concerns that some individuals are buying live birds from poultry farms before illegally slaughtering and selling them to food businesses.
"I'm happy to say that all 25 businesses that we visited were buying their chicken from legitimate sources," he says. "This shows that operators are getting the message and taking responsibility for sourcing product from the right places."
The operation targeted food businesses considered to be at a higher risk of non-compliance in this area.
"As with other animal products, chicken presents certain hazards - such as foodborne bacteria like Campylobacter - which need to be managed in the slaughter process through a Risk Management Programme (RMP)," Glen says.
An RMP describes how the business deals with hazards and the risks they pose in order to ensure that the resulting food is fit for its intended purpose. Under the Animal Products Act 1999, poultry slaughterhouses are required to operate under an RMP.
"No consumer should be put at risk by eating chicken meat that hasn't been processed in a way that manages the presence of harmful bacteria," Glen says.
He adds that excellent progress has been made over the past three years under NZFSA's Campylobacter Risk Management Strategy on reducing the reported incidence of foodborne campylobacteriosis.
"For the third year in a row the number of reported cases of illness is at the lowest it's been since 2004. Excellent progress has been made with legitimate poultry processors and we are now turning our attention to closing down any illegal poultry suppliers that come to our attention."
The penalties for selling non-complying animal material or products are significant: individuals face fines of up to $100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, while a body corporate could be handed fines of up to $500,000. Anyone who has information about the suspected illegal sale of poultry can report this to NZFSA on 0800 693 721.
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