70% of chickens contaminated

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the cumulative results from the first two quarters of its one-year survey of campylobacter on fresh chickens bought in the UK. Individual results by major retailer have also been published.

The results to date show:

  • 18% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter above the highest level of contamination
  • 70% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter
  • 6% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter, with one sample at the highest level of contamination.

In total, 1,995 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens have now been tested, with packaging also tested for most of these samples. Data shows variations between retailers, but none are meeting the end-of-production target for reducing campylobacter.

The overall figures show an increase in contamination from the first quarter to the second quarter. The FSA reports that this is most likely due to the second quarter’s samples being taken during the summer months when an increase in campylobacter is often seen because of the warmer weather.

Steve Wearne, FSA director of policy, says, “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 halfway through the survey, 18% of birds tested had campylobacter 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 12-month survey, running from February 2014 to February 2015, will test 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers.


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