Damage control

In the same week that Nestle announced plans to destroy more than $50 million (£32 million) worth of its Maggi noodles, after India’s food safety regulator found the product contains unsafe levels of lead, the presence of a strain of superbug MRSA in UK supermarket pork was also making headlines.

The Guardian investigation tested 100 packets of pork chops, bacon and gammon and found that nine – eight Danish and one Irish – had been infected with MRSA CC398, which is linked to intensively farmed animals.
The article pointed out that CC398 in meat “poses little risk to the British public” and “can be killed through cooking”, with industry associations such as the Food Standards Agency and National Pig Association quick to reiterate its low risk.

However, transparency specialist Trace One has compared the findings with the horsemeat scandal and is calling for action from the retailers.

Shaun Bossons, executive vice president, says, “This latest scare poses a much greater risk to public health than the horsemeat crisis. While horsemeat is essentially harmless, we are well aware of the dangers MRSA presents.

“Food scares such as this are, to some degree, inevitable – the sheer scale of the modern supply chain, coupled with the unpredictability of infection and human scruples and behaviour, means that there is always an opportunity for superbugs to enter the food chain.

“Where retailers show their true colours is in their response. While they cannot be blamed for the initial contamination, they can ensure that potentially dangerous products are removed from shelves to prevent harm to customers, and track the infected ingredients through their supply chain to identify and isolate those suppliers at fault.”

The supermarkets are on the ball with this one – with Sainsbury’s, Asda and the Co-operative all saying that while they believe there is little risk to consumers, they are investigating the sources of contaminated pork.

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