It’s not just chicken but UK wants piping hot bang for its intervention dollar: Campy results released

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has today published the latest set of results from its year-long survey of campylobacter on fresh chickens. Campylobacter is a food bug mainly found on raw poultry and is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK.

chickenThe results are published for the first time as Official Statistics and the full report can be found via the link on this page. Cumulative results for samples taken between February and November 2014 have now been published, including results presented by major retailer.

The results to date show:

19% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination.*

73% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter.

7% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter. Only three out of more than 3,000 samples of packaging tested positive at the highest band of contamination.

*More than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (>1,000 cfu/g). These units indicate the degree of contamination on each sample.

More than 3,000 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens and packaging have now been tested. Data continue to show variations between the retailers but none is meeting the target for reducing campylobacter (see table below).

The FSA’s 12-month survey, running from February 2014 to February 2015, will test around 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers. The full set of results is expected to be published in May.

The FSA has welcomed the publication by M&S of a case-study showing the results from the retailer’s recently implemented five-point intervention plan to reduce campylobacter on its chickens. The preliminary results published by M&S indicate a significant reduction in the number of the most highly contaminated birds.

Steve Wearne, FSA Director of Policy, said: ‘We now know it is possible to make positive inroads in the reduction of campylobacter. Figures released today by M&S show that their intervention plan has resulted in fewer contaminated chickens on sale in their stores. If one retailer can achieve this campylobacter reduction through systematic interventions then others can, and should.

‘Our survey is putting pressure on retailers to work with poultry processors to do more to tackle campylobacter. We want the industry to reduce the number of the most highly contaminated chickens as we know this will have the greatest impact on public health.

‘Campylobacter is killed by thorough cooking, but it should not be left to consumers to manage the risk.’

Is M&S Marks and Spencer or something else?

 

 

Retailer Number of
samples
% skin samples positive for campylobacter (95% confidence interval) % skin samples
>1,000 cfu/g campylobacter (95% confidence interval)
% pack samples positive for campylobacter (95% confidence interval)
Asda 491 78.9  (75.2 – 82.4) 31.1  (27.0 – 35.2) 13.0  (10.1 – 16.1)
Co-op 274 75.6  (70.2 – 80.6) 16.4  (12.3 – 20.9) 4.4  (2.1 – 7.0)
M&S 103 72.2  (63.0 – 80.7) 20.7  (13.0 – 29.1) 3.8  (0.8 – 8.1)
Morrison’s 271 76.2  (71.4 – 80.9) 22.9  (18.0 – 28.0) 13.3  (9.5 – 17.4)
Sainsbury’s 451 69.6  (65.4 – 73.7) 14.3  (11.2 – 17.6) 4.0  (2.3 – 6.0)
Tesco 925 68.2  (65.3 – 71.1) 12.3  (10.2 – 14.4) 4.1  (2.9 -5.4)
Waitrose 96 71.7  (62.1 – 80.5) 15.6  (8.5 – 23.7) 6.2  (2.1 – 11.7)
Others[1] 450 76.9  (72.9 – 80.7) 23.2  (19.4 – 27.2) 6.8  (4.6 – 9.2)
Total 3,061 72.9 (71.4 -74.5) 18.9 (17.5 – 20.3) 6.8 (5.9 – 7.7)

 

[1] The ‘Others’ category includes supermarkets where the market share was deemed small using the 2010 Kantar data: eg Lidl, Aldi, Iceland, plus convenience stores, independents, butchers etc.