The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the final set of results from a one-year survey of Campylobacter on fresh whole chickens and packaging on sale in large supermarkets and smaller independent retailers.
The results for more than 4,000 chicken skin and packaging samples tested between February 2014 and February 2015 show that about 73% of chickens tested positive for Campylobacter, with 19% falling within the highest band of contamination (>1,000 cfu/g). Approximately 7% of packaging samples also tested positive with five samples showing the highest contamination level.
The results also give the levels of contamination presented by retailer for the seven largest UK supermarket chains. None of the retailers met the joint industry target for reducing Campylobacter in chicken over the survey period, but the results from Asda were significantly higher than the industry average (80.4% contamination rate and 29.7% samples >1,000 cfu/g), while those from Tesco were significantly lower (66.5% contamination rate and 12.8% samples >1,000 cfu/g).
A new survey will begin this summer and will once more sample fresh whole chickens from various retail outlets. It is expected that contamination rates will soon start to fall as the Campylobacter reduction plans devised by retailers and processors begin to show results. Preliminary data from Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, the Co-op and Waitrose has already shown marked reductions in contamination rates on chickens after implementing interventions designed to reduce the incidence of Campylobacter.
A report presenting the final set of results for the full year can be found on the FSA website here.