Food poison bugs found in fifth of chickens from supermarkets including salmonella



06:30 GMT, 13 April 2012

Tests: Supermarket chickens all had bacterial contamination

Tests: Supermarket chickens all had bacterial contamination

One in five chickens sold in supermarkets carries the bug behind most cases of food poisoning in Britain.

An investigation found that 18 per cent of fresh chicken reared in the UK, including free range and organic poultry, was contaminated with campylobacter.

And 17 per cent was contaminated with listeria – with 4 per cent containing levels classed as ‘high’ by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Salmonella, another food poisoning bug, was found in 1.5 per cent of samples.

Campylobacter – a bacterium blamed for more than 370,000 food poisoning cases a year – can be killed by cooking chicken properly and disinfecting contaminated areas.

Consumer watchdog Which tested 192 samples of whole chickens and chicken portions – standard, free range and organic, all reared in the UK – from Aldi, Asda, The Co-operative, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose in March.

It found bacterial contamination in samples from each retailer.

Which stressed the study was a ‘snapshot’ as it tested each retailer on two days in different locations and so could not definitively conclude that chicken from one was better than that from another.

Make sure it's cooked: FSA figures show 17million fall ill every year from contaminated food

Make sure it's cooked: FSA figures show 17million fall ill every year from contaminated food

But the results are an improvement on 2009, when the FSA found 65 per cent of fresh chickens it tested were contaminated with campylobacter at the point of sale.

Which repeated advice not to wash raw chicken as it could splash the bacteria on to the sink, worktops or nearby dishes, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.

Which executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘While the situation is improving, it is still unacceptable that one in five chickens we tested was found to be contaminated with campylobacter.

‘We want to see the risk of contamination minimised at every stage of production, because for far too long consumers have been expected to clean up mistakes made earlier in the supply chain.’

Some countries, such as New Zealand, have reduced campylobacter contamination by disinfecting chicken meat with chlorine washes before it reaches the shops but this method is banned by the EU.

Campylobacter was behind more than 371,000 food poisoning cases in England and Wales in 2009, resulting in more than 17,500 hospital admissions and 88 deaths, said the FSA.

The number of people suffering stomach upsets has risen 43 per cent since the 1990s, with FSA figures showing 17million fall ill every year.

Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, said: ‘This report makes clear that chicken is a safe and healthy product when properly cooked. The British poultry industry is committed to working with consumer groups, government and retailers to ensure chicken is safe and healthy.’