Major retailers publish campylobacter results for January-March 2019

The top 9 food retailers publish January - March 2019 campylobacter results for fresh shop-bought UK-produced chickens.

The top nine retailers across the UK have today published their latest testing results on campylobacter contamination in UK-produced fresh whole chickens (covering samples tested from January to March 2019).

The latest figures show that on average, across the major retailers, 3.5% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination. These are the chickens carrying more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g) of campylobacter. 

Rebecca Sudworth, Director of Policy at the Food Standards Agency, said: 

‘Campylobacter levels have remained steady and are below our target of 7% at the highest level of contamination. Nevertheless, we will continue to work closely with retailers to bring levels down to as low as reasonably achievable.

Our advice to consumers remains the same: take care when handling raw chicken, do not wash it, and ensure it is cooked thoroughly before serving.'

Results

Contamination levels

April-June 2018 July-September 2018 October-December 2018 January-March 2019
cfu/g less than 10 60.6% 58.8% 63.1% 55.4%
cfu/g 10-99 23.3% 26.7% 22.3% 25.3%
cfu/g 100-1000 12.5% 11% 11.4% 15.8%
cfu/g over 1000 3.7% 3.5% 3.1% 3.5%

Results by retailer for January – March 2019

The sampling and analyses are carried out in accordance with protocols laid down by the FSA and agreed by Industry.

Background information

We have been testing chickens for campylobacter since February 2014 and publishing the results as part of a campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

In September 2017 we announced changes to the survey, with major retailers carrying out their own sampling and publishing their results under robust protocols laid down by the FSA. We are continuing to sample fresh whole chickens sold at retail, however, the focus is now on the smaller retailers and the independent market.

Consumer advice

Chicken is safe if consumers follow good kitchen practice:

  • Cover and chill raw chicken - cover raw chicken and store at the bottom of the fridge so juices cannot drip onto other foods and contaminate them with food poisoning bacteria such as campylobacter
  • Don’t wash raw chicken - thorough cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter, while washing chicken can spread germs by splashing
  • Wash used utensils - thoroughly wash and clean all utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, after handling raw chicken - this helps stop the spread of campylobacter by avoiding cross-contamination
  • Cook chicken thoroughly - make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut into the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.