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Three Quarters of Chickens Test Positive for Campylobacter

29 May 2015

UK - Most chickens test positive for the presence of campylobacter, according to the results of a year-long study published by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Campylobacter is a food bug mainly found on raw poultry and is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK.

Cumulative results for samples taken between February 2014 and February 2015 have now been published as official statistics, including results presented by major retailer. 

The results for the full year show:

  • 73 per cent of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter;
  • 19 per cent of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination;
  • 7 per cent of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter.

More than 4,000 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens and packaging were tested, from a variety of large UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers.

The data shows variations between the retailers, but none has met the target for reducing campylobacter. 

However, the FSA welcomed the publication of case studies by Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, the Co-op and Waitrose showing the results of their recently implemented campylobacter reduction plans.

The data show significant decreases in the incidence of campylobacter on their raw whole chickens. The tests were carried out on more recent samples than those taken from the FSA survey samples, with some targeted to demonstrate the effect of particular interventions.

Steve Wearne, FSA Director of Policy, said: "I am absolutely delighted to see the really encouraging results from these four supermarkets and their suppliers.

"They are making a real difference to public health, helping to cut down on the estimated 280,000 people who get ill from campylobacter each year.

"As we have always said, if you are prepared to work across the food chain to reduce the spread of this bug then you will get results.

"We expect all retailers and processors to be achieving the reductions we have seen in these retailers’ figures – that’s the only way we will meet the target we all signed up to.

"We are going to run this survey for a second year and will again look at campylobacter levels on chickens at retail sale.

"I hope that we will be able to see the results from the actions taken by the four retailers mentioned above and others come through and produce much lower figures for the incidence of campylobacter on the chicken we buy."

Richard MacDonald, Chair of the ACT (Acting on Campylobacter Together) Board, said: "I have been impressed by the level of commitment and tangible action being taken by a number of retailers and processors of chicken.

"I hope we continue to see further progress in our fight to significantly reduce or even eradicate campylobacter on chickens.

"Individual actions and cross-industry sharing of best practice are starting to have a real and tangible impact."

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

ThePoultrySite News Desk

Top image via Shutterstock

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