Campylobacter down in poultry, says survey

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has shown there has been a decrease in both the number of birds with campylobacter on them and those with the highest level of contamination compared to the equivalent quarter last year.

The results, published today (Thursday 26 May 2016) for January to March 2016 showed that only 9.3% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination for this quarter, compared with 21.8% for the three months from December 2014 to February 2015.

Campylobacter was found in 50% of chicken samples, a decrease from 71% in the same quarter of the previous year. To get the results for this quarter, the FSA tested 1,009 samples of fresh whole chilled UK-produced chickens and packaging.

“These results are moving in the right direction and I am delighted with progress,” said Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA. “It shows what can be done by a real commitment to tackle this bug and I am encouraging industry to go even further, more quickly, to continue to get the numbers down.”

Wearne highlighted that one of the reasons the survey results were lower this quarter was because of the decision many retailers and their suppliers took to remove neck skin from the bird before it went on sale.

“This is good news for the consumer because the neck skin is the most contaminated part of the chicken. However, it is also the part of the bird that we have been testing in our survey and this means that comparisons with previous results are not as reliable as we would like.

“Therefore, this quarter, we are giving an overall figure for the amount of campylobacter on chicken and not breaking the figures down by retailer, as we normally do. We have also stopped this survey and will begin a new one in the summer, with a different method of testing campylobacter levels on chicken. First results from this survey, which will rank retailers, are due in January 2017.”

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