Alleged hygiene failings in the poultry industry that have seen three of the UK’s leading supermarkets launch emergency investigations into their chicken supplies brings pump specification and pump maintenance firmly into the spotlight, according to one leading manufacturer.
Landia, whose non-clogging chopper pumps are installed at numerous poultry processors, abattoirs, farms and biogas plants, say that the shocking evidence uncovered by The Guardian newspaper shows just how quickly standards can deteriorate when pumps fail.
Paul Davies from Landia commented: “We don’t yet live in a world of course where pumps never break down, but any well-run abattoir will be acutely aware of the sometimes dire consequences of wastewater backing up - and will have already have a preventative maintenance program in place.
“With some larger abattoirs running lines at a rate of almost 200 birds per minute, or well over 10,000 per hour, downtime can be disastrous. In too many places the production line is being pushed to absolute breaking point in order to meet the deadlines of their supermarket customers, but all the same, a decent sturdy chopper pump that doesn’t allow solids to clog it up, backed by a regular servicing, can make a world of difference”.
At one factory, The Guardian discovered offal piled up during a pump system failure, with breakdowns leading to high-risk material – feathers, guts and offal – piling up for hours.
Another breakdown led to the water in scald tanks at the same site not being cleaned for three days, so that around 250,000 birds passed through dirty water after slaughter.
During The Guardian’s five-month investigation, workers also witnessed a breakdown (which they said are repeated events) where it was the pump feeding the flume of water that is supposed to carry feathers away from the plucking machines.
The evidence prompted Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer to launch emergency investigations into their chicken suppliers.
The concern centres on the campylobacter bacteria, which at the last count was present in two-thirds of British fresh chicken sold in the UK. Although the bug is killed by thorough cooking, around 280,000 people in the UK are currently made ill each year by it and 100 people are thought to die. Contamination rates are known to have increased in the past decade.