Retailers face consumer scrutiny of poultry products
of their poultry products as the fears surrounding avian flu lead
to heightened awareness of the dangers of uncooked meat.
While the UK's food authority has sought to reassure consumers that the flu virus cannot be contracted through cooked meat, a consumer complaint received by Morrisons this week forced the retailer to withdraw products not apparently adequately cooked.
Britain's fourth largest retailer says that it has not yet seen any impact on poultry or egg sales but the product recall points to increasing scrutiny of chicken products.
"We have withdrawn the single chicken product from all stores as a precautionary measure following one complaint. We felt this was appropriate action as chicken has been in the spotlight recently," a Morrisons spokesperson told FoodandDrinkEurope.com
Yesterday, another leading retailer, Waitrose, recalled seven of its chicken products after routine tests revealed the possible presence of the salmonella bacteria in one of the products.
The product recall and withdrawal by the UK retailers will only add to the heightened consumer awareness surrounding standards of poultry products on sale in supermarkets following revelations by a BBC investigation that found that about half of British chickens contained antibiotic-resistant E.coli.
Retailers are now feeling the pressure to reassure their customers of the quality of their products. Asda, Britain's second largest food retailer, has started an in-store marketing campaign aimed at reassuring customers about the quality of its poultry.
Unlike many European countries, the UK poultry industry, which produces 1.5 million tonnes of poultry meat every year and is worth £30 billion (€42 bn), is reported to be remaining optimistic over the threats of bird flu - the British Poultry Council claim there has been no fall in demand.
Sales of poultry products across Europe have not remained quite so buoyant - French sales have reportedly fallen by 20 per cent and consumption in Italy, one of the EU's biggest producers of poultry meat, has fallen by 40 per cent.
In 2003 European poultry sales fell by 2 per cent after an outbreak of the milder H5N7 form of the virus in the Netherlands.
Despite British retailers claiming sales have not been affected, Asda, the UK's second largest retailer has taken to marketing its eggs as "Halloween Fun" to boost sales.
This has not been welcomed by Liverpool City Council, which believes the packaging may encourage people to throw the eggs. The council has gone so far as to threaten the retailer with an Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) if they do not stop selling the eggs.