The regulation sets a process hygiene criterion for Campylobacter in broiler carcases to control contamination during the slaughtering process.
Such criteria indicates the functioning of the production process by setting a contamination value above which corrective actions are required to maintain the hygiene of it in compliance with food law.
The Commission said a step by step approach should be considered, making the criteria gradually stricter in time.
International standard ISO 10272-2 is the horizontal method for the enumeration of Campylobacter in food and feedstuff.
BEUC slams low ambition and watered down proposals
BEUC hit out at the “low level of ambition” showed by the proposals.
Campylobacteriosis is the most commonly reported zoonosis despite decreasing from 2014, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) annual report.
There were almost 230,000 cases in 2015 and broiler meat is considered to be the most important single source of human illness, said the EU agencies.
The European Consumer Organisation added it deplores the ‘watering down’ of them compared to previous versions.
“The original text of the Commission's proposal (October 2015), would foresee a target of maximum 10% broiler carcases above the limit of 1000 cfu/g, to be reached by the autumn 2016,” it said.
“It was subsequently revised (December 2015) to suggest that this target should be reached only progressively, but no later than 2020.
“By contrast, the latest draft of the measure now released for public consultation foresees that by 2025, 20% of poultry carcases could still exceed the limit of 1000 cfu/g.”
BEUC said it supports a target of no more than 10% broiler carcases above a limit of 1000 cfu/g on the skin.
Samples should be kept and transported to the laboratory at not lower than 1ºC and not higher than 8ºC and time between sampling and testing for Campylobacter shall be less than 48 hours to ensure sample integrity.
Food business operators of slaughterhouses or sites producing minced meat, meat preparations, mechanically separated meat or fresh poultry meat shall take samples for microbiological analysis at least once a week.
The day of sampling shall be changed each week to ensure that each day is covered.
Frequency may be reduced to fortnightly if results have been satisfactory for 52 consecutive weeks.
Input on testing neck skin
The Commission said the sampling plan on Campylobacter should follow the same testing approach as for Salmonella in poultry carcasses.
The same neck skin samples used for testing compliance for Salmonella in poultry carcases may be used for the Campylobacter analyses, it added.
However, the Dutch Association of the Poultry Processing Industries (NEPLUVI) said it is not in favour of taking neck skin samples as a matrix for sampling of Campylobacter.
“Neck skin is on average higher contaminated than other parts of the chicken. Because neck skin is not being consumed, and other parts of the chicken are, it is not fair to sample this highly contaminated part and it is better to sample a part of the chicken which is being consumed (for example breast skin).”
NEPLUVI added the range of transportation of the samples to the laboratory is 1-8 degrees.
“This is a very big range and in the Netherlands we use 0-4 degrees. With this range you have more reliable results from your samples.”
The Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade in the EU (AVEC) welcomed the decision to make the process hygiene criteria gradually stricter in time.
“Since it is widely known that it is difficult to reduce (even to influence) Campylobacter numbers on chicken neck skin by improving only hygiene AVEC is interested to learn which corrective measures in case of non-compliance the Commission is considering effective,” said the association.
“AVEC recommends waiting for the results of the testing implemented in the first period of at least 24 months and only after an evaluation of those results setting the final target.”
The association said due to seasonality the EC sampling approach would lead to possible recurrent non compliances during the summer.
“Therefore AVEC is very much supporting a sample size of five which means that for each sample session of one week the (non)compliance will be determined, which in case of non-compliance will give a new opportunity to be compliant again in the next sampling and testing session.”
The association added the image of poultry meat would be ‘severely damaged’ with consumers if industry is forced to decontaminate with chemicals.
The European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for Campylobacter is held by the National Veterinary Institute (SVA) of Sweden.