FSA publishes final campylobacter report

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

Almost three-quarters of raw supermarket chicken tested positive for campylobacter
Almost three-quarters of raw supermarket chicken tested positive for campylobacter

Related tags Food safety

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of fresh supermarket chicken tested positive for the presence of campylobacter during the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) year-long survey, it revealed today (September 10).

The final report contained data sets of the results from all of the retailers included in its survey and featured comparisons between different sized birds.

The FSA’s director of policy Steve Wearne said the survey had resulted in businesses investing in systems to control the pathogen.

FSA’s retail survey

“The FSA’s retail survey has been an important part of our work to tackle campylobacter,”​ he said.

“Thanks to the focus the survey has put on the industry, retailers and processers are starting to invest in new interventions to tackle the bug.”

Campylobacter is a foodborne pathogen responsible for around 280,000 cases of food poisoning every year in the UK, said the FSA.

The agency has identified the pathogen as its leading food safety priority and has been working closely with the food industry to reduce the levels of contamination on raw chickens.

Campylobacter full-year results

  • 19% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination*
  • 73% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter
  • 0.1% (five samples) of packaging tested positive at the highest band of contamination
  • 7% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter

* more than 1000 colony forming units per gram (>1000 cfu/g). These units indicate the degree of contamination on each sample.

Source: FSA

The food industry is working towards a target, agreed with the FSA, to reduce the number of the most contaminated birds to less than 10% by the end of 2015.

Consumer pressure group Which? said retailers, the food industry and the FSA must continue to crack down on campylobacter.

‘Urgent action needed’

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “The stark fact is that three out of four supermarket chickens people buy could be infected with a potentially fatal bacteria.

“It’s encouraging that some supermarkets are making headway in tackling this bug, but we must now see all retailers take urgent action to meet FSA targets and make chicken safe.”

The FSA has welcomed case studies by Marks & Spencer, the Co-operative, Waitrose, Aldi and Iceland, showing the results of their campylobacter reduction plans.

Their data showed “significant decreases”​ in the incidence of campylobacter on their raw whole chickens, the FSA said. The tests were carried out on samples taken later than those from the FSA survey, with some targeted to demonstrate the effect of particular interventions.

The FSA is now moving ahead with its next retail survey to track progress and provide an indication of where these interventions were delivering results, Wearne claimed.

The first set of results from the new FSA survey, that commenced in July 2015, is expected to be published in November 2015.

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