A new scheme offering free campylobacter testing kits is being offered to independent poultry farmers in Northern Ireland.

The initiative, which has been co-funded by the Food Standards Agency and the National Farmers’ Union in the UK – aims to reduce the incidence of campylobacter in poultry flocks.

Supporting this initiative is part of our commitment to the industry through our Acting on Campylobacter Together, or ‘ACT’ pledge, said Kirsten Dunbar, Head of Operational Policy & Delivery at the FSA in Northern Ireland.

“This scheme is aimed at smaller poultry firms and their independent suppliers. We want to help farmers control campylobacter – and ultimately reduce the risk to the public of contracting food poisoning from contaminated raw poultry. Farmers can register online for this new scheme. Test kits will be issued to farmers with full instructions on how to use them.

The AFBI laboratory in Belfast is carrying out this testing work on behalf of the FSA and NFU. If farmers complete and return a short questionnaire with the sample to the labs, they will be texted their results within 36 hours of receipt.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning across the UK. The FSA continues to run high-profile consumer campaigns urging people not to wash raw poultry which risks spreading campylobacter – but instead to cook the meat thoroughly which will kill any germs, said Kirsten.

Commenting on the new initiative Ulster Farmers’ Union Poultry Committee Chairman  Roy Campbell said the funding for this testing scheme ends next March and we would encourage all independent broiler farmers in Northern Ireland to take part, as it is an important way of understanding the campylobacter status of their  farm and identifying ways of reducing the number of contaminated flocks being produced.

“It can be difficult for farmers to identify just when their flock becomes infected – because birds don’t show any signs of illness despite having the disease.”