FSA records lowest levels of campylobacter contamination

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Campylobacter contamination in fresh whole chickens fell to its lowest levels since 2014
Campylobacter contamination in fresh whole chickens fell to its lowest levels since 2014

Related tags: Food standards agency, Campylobacter

Campylobacter contamination levels in UK-produced chickens have fallen to their lowest levels in three years, according to a Food Standards Agency (FSA) report.

The results from the FSA’s third survey of campylobacter contamination in fresh, shop bought, UK-produced chickens found that 6.5% of birds tested positive for the highest level of contamination, down from 19.7% in 2014/15 when the survey began.

The watchdog also found that the percentage of chickens that tested positive for campylobacter at any level was down from 73.2% in 2014/15 to 54% in 2016/17.

A total of 3,980 whole fresh chickens were sampled at retail from August 2016 to July 2017.

Significantly higher prevalence

High-level campylobacter prevalence among the top nine retailers (based on market share) was 5.6%, while smaller retailers and butchers had a significantly higher prevalence at 17.1%. 

The retailers with significantly lower contamination than the average among all retailers were Waitrose (2.7%), Morrisons (2.9%) and Tesco (4.2%).

The survey results will be the last that feature contamination levels of chicken from the top nine retailers. This followed a change in protocol by the FSA in September,​ which would see these retailers publish their own campylobacter results.

Heather Hancock, chair of the FSA, said: “The full-year’s results from our third annual survey show the significant progress the industry has made in reducing campylobacter levels in chicken, compared with their starting point.

‘Step towards greater transparency’

“The major retailers are now taking on the responsibility to publish their own results, according to a protocol we have agreed. This is a welcome step towards greater transparency.”

The sampling and analyses carried out by the top nine retailers will be in accordance with FSA protocols, claimed the watchdog, so all results would still be comparable.

The FSA will also have access to the raw data to verify samples and determine industry averages and will have the right to comment publicly on the results. 

The organisation said it would now focus its efforts on smaller businesses, where it felt further improvement could be made in tackling campylobacter contamination.

Top nine retailers’ campylobacter contamination

Retailer

No. of samples

% skin samples over 1,000 colony forming units per gram of Campylobacter

% skin samples positive for Campylobacter

Aldi

409

6.0 (3.7 - 8.4)

56.7 (51.9 - 61.6)

Asda

387

7.6 (5.1 - 10.3)

57.1 (52.1 - 62.0)

Co-op

406

4.4 (2.5 - 6.6)

53.0 (48.1 - 57.9)

Lidl

408

7.1 (4.7 - 9.6)

55.7 (50.9 - 60.5)

M&S

407

6.4 (4.2 - 8.9)

62.7 (58.1 - 67.3)

Morrisons

392

2.9 (1.4 - 4.6)

51.1 (46.2 - 56.1)

Sainsbury’s

395

5.5 (3.4 - 7.8)

52.8 (47.9 - 57.7)

Tesco

404

4.2 (2.4 - 6.2)

46.7 (41.9 - 51.5)

Waitrose

409

2.7 (1.1 - 4.4)

38.6 (33.9 - 43.3)

Others

363

17.1 (13.1 - 21.3)

71.6 (66.9 - 76.2)

All

3,980

6.5 (5.6 - 7.3)

54.0 (52.3 - 55.8)

Related topics: Food Safety, Meat & poultry

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