Tesco had made “significant progress” in recent months, with figures showing that chicken which contain campylobacter at the highest level of 1,000 colony forming units has fallen to less than 9% in the third quarter this year, the retailer claimed.
This is compared with 15% recorded by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for the same period in 2014.
In the last year, Tesco has driven levels of the bacteria to below the current FSA target of 10%. Britain’s biggest retailer was close to meeting its 2017 goal of at least 95% of chickens to have minimal levels of campylobacter by 2017.
91% negative for campylobacter
Tesco was seeing “real progress” throughout its supply chain in its longstanding commitment to tackling campylobacter, its group quality director Tim Smith claimed.
“With over 91% of our chicken now testing negative for the highest levels of campylobacter, we are clearly demonstrating our commitment to tackle the issue and how we want to remain at the forefront of any developments to improve the quality and safety of our chicken,” he said.
- 280,000 cases of campylobacter each year
- More than 100 people are killed by campylobacter each year
- Costs UK economy £900M each year
- The FSA is working to reduce levels of campylobacter by 10% by the end of 2015
“It is also testament to the hard work of our suppliers to tackle the issue.”
Nearly three quarters (73%) of fresh supermarket chicken tested positive for campylobacter in a year-long survey by the FSA, published in September.
Tesco was the only major retailer to consistently have significantly lower levels of campylobacter in its chicken compared to the industry average, it claimed.
Last summer, Tesco pledged to continue to work in partnership with suppliers in order to meet its target, set by the retailer, of at least 95% of chickens to have minimal levels of campylobacter by 2017.
The FSA’s director of policy Steve Wearne welcomed the “encouraging news” from Tesco.
“It is very good to see the company’s commitment to reducing campylobacter showing positive results and I’m pleased that Tesco is determined now and in the future to reduce the levels of this bug on chicken,” he said. “We will continue to play our part in helping retailers and suppliers tackle campylobacter.”