Survey results show continuing high levels of Campylobacter in chicken

| November 27, 2014 UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published cumulative results from the first two quarters of a 12-month survey of Campylobacter levels in fresh chickens on retail sale. The survey shows that about 70% of chickens tested positive for the pathogen.

The survey began in February and the published results relate to 1,995 samples of fresh, whole, chilled chickens tested in the first six months. Skin samples from each chicken were tested for the presence of Campylobacter and the packaging was also tested in most cases.

The results also reveal that skin samples from 18% of the chickens tested were contaminated with levels of Campylobacter higher than 1,000 cfu/g and that 6% of the packaging tested positive, with a single sample showing the higher level of contamination. The results from the second quarter of the survey show higher results than those from the first, but this is thought to be due to an increase in levels of Campylobacter during the warmer summer months.

Results are presented for individual retailers in the report, but the Agency warns that this data should be interpreted with care. All showed quite high levels of contamination, with Tesco the lowest at 64% of positive samples and Asda the highest at 78%. The Agency report notes that none of the named retailers is achieving the joint industry target for Campylobacter reduction, although some have launched new initiatives and technologies aimed at tackling the problem.

Commenting on the results, FSA Director of Policy Steve Wearne said, “These results show that the food industry, especially retailers, need to do more to reduce the amount of Campylobacter on fresh chickens. Although we are only half way through the survey, 18% of birds tested had Campylobacter at over 1,000 cfu/g, the highest level of contamination, and more than 70% of birds had some Campylobacter on them. This shows there is a long way to go before consumers are protected from this bug.”

The report can be found in full on the Agency website here.

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