In a speech to industry bosses, Mr Rooker praised those producers who had already successfully reduced levels of salmonella in their flocks. But he urged producers to carry on collaborating with Government farming and food safety experts to continue the downward trend. He said:
"I am pleased to hear that levels of salmonella in broiler flocks has been reduced, perhaps to as low as 10 per cent in some cases. But that is not enough. The issue continues to be of public concern. It will be in the industry's interests to tackle the matter head on. The Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food sees no reason in principle why the prevalence of salmonella contamination in chickens on retail sale should not be reduced to single figures - on the basis of existing technology. We already have a structured forward programme to tackle hygiene standards in poultry slaughterhouses. We now need to tackle the levels of salmonella in farms."
Mr Rooker also spoke of the use of antibiotics in poultry farming. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate has extended its statutory monitoring programme for veterinary residues to cover poultry. All results will be published, together with the brand names for those above acceptable levels. All positive results will be followed up with the farmer and his veterinary adviser. The Department of Health will be conducting a survey of salmonella in UK produced chickens on retail sale later this year.
The Government intends to ask the European Commission to review the use of poultry and feather waste in poultry feed throughout the Community, said Mr Rooker. The decision follows a recommendation by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) in December 1997 that same species feeding may create the potential to spread disease.
Jeff Rooker was speaking to the British Poultry Meat Federation at their annual lunch, held in London today.