HC Deb 07 December 1971 vol 827 cc1108-9
11. Mrs. Joyce Butler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will seek powers to require instructions in regard to adequate thawing and cooking to be printed on the wrappers of frozen food in cases where failure to carry out such measures can lead to health risks.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

Most frozen foods involve no greater risks than fresh products, but for frozen chickens and turkeys informative labels on thawing and cooking are helpful. My right hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services are watching the position. At present, through voluntary action by the trade, the great majority of birds do provide instructions. I hope that this practice will soon become universal without the need to consider using powers available under the Food and Drugs Act.

Mrs. Butler

But since the appropriate Minister has said that frozen poultry is safe only if adequately thawed out and cooked, and since there were 36 samples out of 100 examined by the Consumer Association recently which were found to contain salmonella poisoning organisms, does not the Minister feel that it is not good enough to leave it to a voluntary scheme among producers? Ought he not to exercise his powers to make it a requirement in order to protect the public.

Mr. Stodart

The National Association of Poultry Packers says that 80 per cent. of its members label. In fact, 90 per cent. of turkeys have labels and instructions on them. The Public Health Laboratory Service is doing research on this matter and we expect its report soon.

Mr. McCrindle

Can my hon. Friend give a little more detail about the voluntary labelling to which he referred?

Mr. Stodart

If my hon. Friend is referring to the instructions, my information is that some birds give different instructions from others. I suggest to my hon. Friend that he should get hold of a couple and see where their instructions differ.

Mr. Greville Janner

Can the Minister say how many people have suffered poisoning as a result of eating unlabelled frozen birds in the past 12 months?

Mr. Stodart

There is no evidence of an increase in food poisoning from the failure to thaw out food properly.