FSA Study Finds Campylobacter Present On 59% Of Fresh Shop-Bought Chickens

Consumers Urged To Cook Chicken Thoroughly

07.08.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397
A study has revealed that 59% of shop-bought fresh whole chilled chickens tested positive for Campylobacter, the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

The Food Standard Agency’s (FSA’s) first quarterly results of its 12-month study into the prevalence of the bacteria on fresh whole chilled chickens, which will run until February 2015, also revealed that Campylobacter was found on the outside of the packaging of 4% of samples.

Campylobacter can be killed if the chicken is cooked properly and it is vital consumers take precautions when dealing with raw chicken.

The FSA advises that raw chicken should be covered and chilled at the bottom of the fridge so juices do not drip onto other foods and contaminate them. The organisation also advised that chicken should not be washed, as this process can spread bacteria, such as Campylobacter, to other food preparation areas. It also urged consumers to thoroughly wash and clean all utensils used to prepare raw chicken.

It highlighted the importance of consumers making sure that chicken is steaming hot all the way through before eating. Cutting into the thickest part of the meat to check it is not pink and that the juices run clear is also advised.

Catherine Brown, FSA chief executive, said the survey will give the organisation a clearer picture of the prevalence of Campylobacter on raw poultry sold by retail outlets, smaller independent stores and butchers.

She added: “The low levels of contamination found on packaging, shown in the results, potentially indicate the effectiveness of the leak-proof packaging for poultry introduced by most retailers, which helps to reduce risks of cross contamination in consumers’ kitchens. There is still a lot more to be done by all elements of the supply chain to ensure that consumers can be confident in the food they buy.

“As soon as we have enough data to robustly compare Campylobacter levels in different retailers we will share that data with consumers.”

Expert Opinion
The proportion of chickens testing positive for Campylobacter is troubling, particularly as the bacteria is one of the main causes of food poisoning in the UK. It is vital that consumers, restaurants and takeaways take the FSA’s guidance on how to prepare and cook raw chicken on board to reduce the likelihood of people falling ill after consuming the bacteria.

“Through our work, we have seen first-hand how Campylobacter can have an impact on the health of victims, as it can often leave people with long-term health problems from which, in some cases, they may never recover.

“The safety of consumers should always be a top priority and it is important the results of the FSA’s 12-month study are taken on board and any failings identified in the chicken supply chain are resolved.”
Amandeep Dhillon, Partner