Further reduction in campylobacter levels

Last updated:
8 March 2018
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The top nine retailers across the UK have now published on their websites, their testing results on campylobacter contamination in UK produced fresh whole chickens (covering October to December 2017).

The figures show that on average, across the market, 4.5% 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. The figure testing positive at the highest level of contamination for the previous quarter (July-Sept 17) was 5.14%.

This reduction builds on the first set of results released by retailers in November 2017 (covering July-September) with the overall trend continuing to show a reduction in the highest level of contamination. This is consistent with previous research which shows a lower level of contamination over the cooler months of the year.

Michael Wight, Director of Policy and Science at the Food Standards Agency said: “It’s good to see that levels of campylobacter found continue on a downward trend. We will continue to monitor the results and procedures of the major retailers and encourage them to maintain the significant progress made so far.

“We would like to thank the British Retail Consortium and the retailers for continuing to take the issue of campylobacter seriously and for working together to coordinate the publication of their results. We are actively working across smaller poultry businesses so that they can also contribute to reducing campylobacter levels.”


The average overall percentage levels of campylobacter in the retailers’ data can be found in the table below:

Contamination Levels (cfu/g) Months tested: July-September 2017 Months tested: October December 2017













Results by retailer: Oct - Dec 2017

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. 

On 21 September 2017 we announced changes to the survey, with retailers carrying out their own sampling and publishing their results under robust protocols laid down by the Food Standards Agency.

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 on to other foods and contaminate them with food poisoning bacteria such as campylobacter;
  • Don’t wash raw chicken - 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 in to the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.