A voluntary Code of Practice for the prevention and control of salmonella in chickens reared for meat on farm is published today [Wednesday].

This is the latest development in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affair's (Defra) commitment to work closely with the industry and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to achieve further cuts in the 6% of salmonella contamination in retail chicken.

The Code is intended to assist flock owners in preventing the introduction, spread and persistence of salmonella infection in chickens reared for meat. It provides guidelines for establishing good hygiene and production practices and for monitoring the salmonella status of flocks, which was recommended by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food in its report on poultry meat (1996). It also gives advice on cleaning and disinfection at depopulation.

The Code has been drafted taking into account the fact that most production takes place in controlled environment housing systems but many of the basic principles are applicable to free range or small scale rearing systems. The measures outlined in the code should also, if rigorously applied, substantially assist in preventing and controlling other infections or diseases in flocks of chickens reared for meat.

The code has also been prepared against the backdrop of the FSA's target of achieving a 50% reduction in the level of salmonella contamination in UK produced chickens on retail sale by April 2005.

The results from the FSA survey of retail chicken in the UK, published in August 2001, showed that salmonella contamination was low at a level of 6%. Nevertheless, the FSA and stakeholders (including DEFRA) are currently working on a strategy to further reduce the level of contamination. The importance of making available a code of practice for the control of salmonella in flocks of chickens reared for meat has been recognised as part of this process.