News & Updates

Survey shows that campylobacter levels in UK-produced chicken continue to decrease

Final results from the third year of Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) survey of campylobacter contamination on fresh chickens at retail have today (18 October 2017) been published. The survey shows that, on average, across the whole market, 6.5% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination compared to 19.7% in 2014/15 when the survey began.

Head of Food Protection, Science and Surveillance, Dr Jacqui McElhiney, said:

“Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in Scotland and our research shows  the majority - 55-75% - of campylobacter infections  are associated with chicken.

“It’s therefore important that we continue to work closely with FSA, our sister agency to promote action by the food industry to reduce the levels of contamination in UK-produced chicken.”

The full year’s results - from August 2016 to July 2017 - based on a total of 3,980 whole fresh chickens sampled at retail, show:

- High-level campylobacter prevalence (the proportion of chickens with more than 1,000 colony forming units (cfu) per gram) among the top nine retailers (based on market share) was at 5.6%.

- The ‘Others’ group (smaller retailers and butchers) had a significantly higher prevalence at 17.1% compared to the top nine retailers.

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

- A significant fall in the percentage of chickens positive for campylobacter at any level - from 73.2% in 2014/15 to 54% in 2016/17.

- In the last period of the third annual survey, April – July 2017, based on a total of 1,437 chicken samples, 5.9% of chickens had high levels of campylobacter (over 1,000 cfu per gram), down from 20.1% for the same period in 2014.

In September, the FSA announced that the top nine retailers will now publish their own campylobacter results on their websites in accordance with robust protocols approved by the FSA – a change which means  they will no longer be included in the FSA’s annual survey. This will allow FSA and FSS to continue to monitor their progress and focus future surveys on smaller retailers, independent traders and market stalls, as these are more likely to be supplied by the smaller processors which are continuing to show higher levels of contamination.

More details on the UK-wide survey can be found here: https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/campyretailsurveyjul2017.pdf

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