Campylobacter - Joint Working Group

Retail Survey Results: Q1

In August 2014 the Food Standards Agency published the first quarter of results from their year-long survey of campylobacter at retail.

The 12-month survey, running from February 2014 to February 2015, is looking at the prevalence and levels of campylobacter contamination on fresh whole chilled chickens and their packaging. The survey will test 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers. The first quarter results represent 853 samples.

The results are in two parts: a figure for the contamination levels on each bird, taken from the neck flap, and expressed as cfu/g (colony forming units per gram), and contamination of the outside of the packaging.

The first quarter results show 59% of birds tested positive for the presence of Campylobacter with 16% of birds tested at this stage of the survey indicating the highest level of contamination of >1000 cfu/g.

To note, 10cfu/g is considered the limit of detection for Campylobacter so only contamination found above that level can be confirmed as a positive. The <10 band includes negative results.

Tests of the packaging showed 4% of samples testing positive for the presence of Campylobacter with one sample at the highest level of contamination.

Chicken is quite safe as long as 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

The second quarter results are due to be published in November 2014.

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