I always like to see how the mainstream media is reporting on all things poultry.

Of course, most of the time, the results that appear from an Internet search cover recipes, or the health benefits of eggs and sometimes there is the unusual or quirky story. But sometimes, there is something a little more worrying.

I remember a few years ago reading about a man in a UK processing plant that had been killed when frozen birds fell on him, and today I came across a report from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive.

Cutting corners

The HSE has recently successfully prosecuted a UK producer for failing to take proper care of staff. The case revolved around a 36-year-old agency worker who was walking on a temporary platform made from stacks of cages to move hens from the poultry house when he tripped. He fell nearly three metres from the unprotected platform edge, fracturing his pelvis in two places and also suffering a collapsed lung.

But this was not just a simple fall. The HSE’s investigations found that the farm had indentified the risk of workers falling from the platform but did not fit any edge protection to it or take any other measures to reduce the risk of falls.

The incident resulted in the farm owners being fined GBP6,000 (US$9,323) and being ordered to pay a further GBP6,276 in costs.

Another press report focused on diners at a charity event. Some 80 of them are reported to have gone down with food poisoning at a five star hotel. They were gathered for a charity function and paid for the privilege, which cost them not only their money but also their health that night. I always think that there is nothing quite like paying for the privilege to fall ill!

When times are hard it is important to look for cost savings, but this should never be at the expense of employees or consumers.

How well the worker with the damaged pelvis has recovered I do not know, and neither do I know the full extent of illness given to the generous guests dining out and eating Campylobacter. But what I do know is that proper care and attention should always be paid at all stages of food production. Clearly, such incidents are not good for those that are directly affected, but neither are they good for the individual producers or the industry as a whole.

I have never liked pâté and do not eat it, but I am sure that this story will return to my memory next time I am in a restaurant and see pâté on the menu. And next time I visit a farm and see cages, I will probably be reminded of the poor agency worker. These may be stories of individual misery, but they affect us all.