Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Man is always concerned about his survival and comfort while there are trillions of other living creatures who co-habit with him, struggling to share some of the very same food available in nature. It is true that as per Darwin's theory ( or was it that of Herbert Spencer?), fittest among the "animals" survive for long and probably man fits into the description of the "fittest" on earth, at least with intelligent resources far superior to others! But non-human living creatures are not about to give up and the most illustrative example is the group comprising microorganisms, some of which are slowly outpacing human beings in accessing foods for them selves, harming the latter in the process. The pathogenic molds, bacteria, virus and others cause a host of diseases through infecting the foods eaten by man and their toxins, both endogenic and exogenic are responsible to many illness and mortality during the last hundreds of years of human history. Ingenious as he is, man has been coming up continuously with newer weapons and tools to outsmart most of the pathogens and to day one should be proud of the achievements of scientists in this area of intense concern. To the armory of weapons that fight bugs, one more new technology is being added in the form of "superfreez" technology which is reported to have the capability to stun and destroy one of the most dangerous microbes encountered by the chicken industry, Campylobacter and here is report on the same. 

'FOOD safety experts plan to "superfreeze" chickens to halt the rise of campylobacter food poisoning. The Food Standards Agency is currently looking into a procedure which involves exposing the surface of slaughtered chickens to extreme cold, known as rapid surface chilling. The radical process is currently being considered to help curb the rampant levels of the food poisoning bacteria commonly found in uncooked poultry products. Around two-thirds of fresh, raw chicken sold by retailers is believed to be contaminated with campylobacter, which can cause sever stomach upsets. The FSA aims to reduce the proportion of birds in the highest category of contamination at UK poultry houses from 27 per cent to 10 per cent by 2015. Dr Jacqui McElhiney, policy adviser on food-borne disease at the FSA in Scotland, said: "This process acts to temporarily cool only the very outer surface of the chicken carcass without freezing the meat itself. It involves exposing the surface of poultry carcasses to very low temperatures for a very short time, which reduces the numbers of campylobacter bacteria on the surface, as they are sensitive to an extreme cold shock treatment of this type." The infection, known as a zoonose, a bacteria transmitted from animals to humans by consuming contaminated foodstuffs, has risen steadily in Europe in recent years. While levels of salmonella have significantly declined over the last five years, campylobacter infections have risen. In 2010 alone, numbers rose by 6.7 per cent, with 212,064 cases across Europe and 266 deaths. Although it performed well during trials, the "superfreezing" procedure has yet to be approved by the European Union and its legality is still to be determined, said McElhiney".

While one has to laud the feat of the scientists who developed this innovative simple technique, in absence of its approval by the competent safety management agencies in Europe or the US, there may be reluctance by the industry to adopt this technology on a wide scale. Probably the world seems to be too much obsessed with Salmonella and hence the relatively lower priority for Campylobacter threat perception. But if recent statistical figures about incidences of Campylobacter related food poisoning episodes are taken into consideration, it is a question of time before world will have to deal with the impending consequences of wide scale food poisoning due to Campylobacter infection. Sooner the new "superfreeze" technology is evaluated for its effectiveness and reliability in over coming this type of infection, better it will be for the chicken consumers around the world.


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