20 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — Supermarket chain Albert Heijn (AH) said on Friday it will remove its “salmonella free” chickens from retail shelves after tests found the presence of the dangerous bacteria on pre-inspected chicken products.
Albert Heijn said it will not take any risks and wishes to determine why chickens are still infected with salmonella despite stringent checks, public news service NOS reported.
The supplier of the chicken meat, Plukon Poultry, based in the central town of Wezep, reacted with disbelief to the test results. “We did not find any salmonella in any of our tests,” the company said.
The financial damage Albert Heijn will incur as a result of the disclosures, is considerable. The retailer — owned by the already financially troubled Dutch multinational Ahold — earns 3 percent of its chicken meat turnover from salmonella free chicken.
Dozens of Dutch residents die each year as a result of food poisoning caused by the salmonella bacteria. It causes nausea, fever, diarrhoea and intestinal cramps. Young children, the elderly and pregnant woman are especially vulnerable, but thoroughly cooking chicken meats kills the bacteria.
The Agriculture Ministry granted a subsidy in 2002 to the meat packing company Plukon totalling EUR 3.5 million, of which EUR 1.7 million was a loan. Plukon slaughters 1.5 million chickens each week.
The ministry hopes that by 2007, only salmonella free chickens will be stocked on supermarket shelves and as a result is attempting to boost the industry with subsidies. It is not yet known if the subsidy is at threat due to the infection concerns.
Rotterdam-based newspaper Algemeen Dagblad commissioned the tests, which were chiefly conducted by the laboratory LabCo, based in Europoort Rotterdam. Chickens were purchased from 22 supermarkets, butchers, market stalls and poultry suppliers.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news