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More should be done to stop Campylobacter

Chicken and Campylobacter

Food experts say that freezing chicken could reduce the risks of the potentially lethal Campylobacter bug – but shouldn’t the responsibility start with the poultry producers and supermarkets?

News of tackling Campylobacter levels in chicken has hit the headlines– in fact you’ll see our response on the front pages of two newspapers today.

This is because a microbiologist from Public Health England has said that freezing chickens that are found to be carrying the bacteria can reduce the level of contamination by up to 90%.

We think it’s a complete cop out to try to put responsibility on consumers to have to clean up poor practices caused earlier in the food supply chain. The Food Standards Agency (FSA), retailers and poultry producers need to make lowering Campylobacter levels a much greater priority. The poultry industry must also clean up its act and be more accountable and transparent.

Campylobacter levels per supermarket

Earlier this month we called on the FSA to publish the result of how the supermarkets performed in terms of the levels of Campylobacter in the chicken they sell. In this tweet, the FSA committed to publishing these results any day now:

We’re continuing to press the FSA for this data as we know it’s an issue you feel strongly about. Wavechange told us:

‘In the future it may be possible to overcome the problem by vaccinating chickens but in the meantime there is a lot that could be done to clean up the processing of poultry’

And Eleanor has shared her experience of contracting the bug:

‘I’ve just recovered from Campylobacter, but as a retired Biomedical Scientist I knew both the symptoms and the origin. I visited my GP, just to have the illness notified, as I waited until I was symptom free before I went. I have always been paranoid about chicken and if I could find someplace that sells polythene gloves, I would wear them when handling chicken.’

Around 60,000 people in the UK are hospitalised or in need or medical attention as a result of Campylobacter infections. Have you experienced the bug from food poisoning?

What would you like the supermarkets and food regulators to be doing to tackle the issue?


Bearing in mind the reaction to Edwina Currie’s warning about salmonella in eggs in 1988, I wonder if it is a good idea to release information that could be used by the press to help panic the public. On the other hand, if it means that action is taken to deal with the problem, public concern may be what is needed.

It is certainly not acceptable that the problem of campylobacter is sufficiently bad for the Food Standards Agency to have warned us not to wash chicken. The industry must clean up its act.

I was going to eat chicken this evening, for the first time since we last discussed the problem. I have lost my appetite now.

Blu Skydive says:
19 November 2014

I had a bout of Campylobacter a couple of years ago after getting lunch forms market street stall.
The initial fever and aches were a proverbial walk in the park in comparison to what was to be a week of serious bed-ridden contemplation of investing in Pampers.

Not even being able to make it to the GP, and as she was so entertained by my rushing back and forth to the toilet, my wife was tasked with delivering samples to Doc.
Rest, a course of antibiotics and sudocream for the “affected area” were enough to get me over it but after reading quite deeply into the causes, the general consensus was that undercooked meat was the primary culprit.

I’m not sure that supermarkets can do too much to alleviate the problem and it should be down to the consumer to ensure that meat is thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Personally, I’ll never eat from a market stall again but have no issues with supermarkets.

Let us see if there are any differences between the supermarkets. Hopefully the survey will be comprehensive. I enjoyed roast chicken last night and hope to continue to do so. But is there a best place to buy one? Have they also included KFC, MacDonalds and the like?

So 1 in a thousand people were “hospitalised or in need or medical attention as a result of Campylobacter infections.”

I am just curious how this compares
with other countries,
other sources of food /stomach based hospitalisations /attention
how far does society go in expense to save those who cook poorly
and ultimately can it never realistically be eradicated

A substantial number of birds carry campylobacter in their bowels without showing signs of illness. It has been suggested that this problem is largely due to poor animal husbandry including the fact that so many birds are confined in a small space. When these birds are eviscerated, the carcasses of birds that were free from campylobacter becomes contaminated with bacteria from the bowels of birds ones that carry campylobacter.

The chicken sitting on the supermarket shelf could effectively be marinaded in chicken faeces and not washed throughly before sale. In some countries, poultry carcasses are washed in bleach and recently it has been proposed that steam or blast-freezing could help control the problem. My view is that we should be looking hard at improving husbandry and how carcasses are processed in abattoirs before going down these routes.

The risks of undercooking meat are well known, and so is the danger of cross contamination of cooked food, but the campylobacter problem is more serious because of the higher level of contamination than seen with other raw meat.

My goodness. The photo in Sam’s introduction has changed from a few hens in a green field to something more sinister.

I am being asked by Which? to sign a petition for supermarkets to act on campylobactor:

…”Today, we’re calling on the supermarkets, the Food Standards Agency and the chicken processing industry to:
Immediately set out the action they will take to bring Campylobacter under control.
Make public the results of campylobacter testing.”

I am totally in favour, of course, of taking action. However, we are told that FSA are publishing this month the first results of “how supermarkets performed” and the FSA website states:

“The poultry supply industry needs to make some significant changes but producers, processors, caterers and retailers have all committed to their part in the fight against campylobacter. Consumers will be able to be the judges of any progress, or lack of progress, that they make.

On a quarterly basis over the next year, the FSA will release the results of tests carried out on about 1,000 samples of chicken being sold by UK retailers. In 2015, we will publish a statistical analysis of the first full-year survey. The information published for each sample will include details about where the chicken was bought, the abattoir that processed it, whether or not the sample contained campylobacter and if so, how heavily it was contaminated.

Everyone is working hard to solve this:”

So if this is all in hand, why do we need a petition?

I agree with Malcolm that effort is being put in to solving the problem, but I am do not understand why supermarkets are being targeted. As I see it, we should be pointing fingers at those responsible for the production side.

I suspect that supermarkets are indirectly responsible by the pressure the put on producers to supply at competitive prices, resulting in corners being cut. When I was young, chicken was relatively expensive, but it is now a cheap meat.

Looking at how supermarkets are keeping milk prices down when other prices are rising, I would not be surprised if there could be quality or safety issues soon. I hope not.

I wonder what is holding up the release of the data. The pecking order of big supermarkets will be some of the most market-sensitive information put in the public domain for some time; timing will be crucial. Depending on its content, and which retailer is in bottom position, it could make the Royal Mail’s recent warning and the effect on its corporate value look like chicken feed.

And with Christmas approaching, does anyone know whether turkeys are susceptible to campylobacter?

When the previous Conversation was published I tried to find out if turkey was less of a risk, but could not find anything definite. In the meantime I have been buying turkey and crossing my fingers.

Thanks Wavers; I’ll look for a wishbone and count to three.

Found this on the web:
“Campylobacter germs (bacteria) are commonly found in raw meat, particularly raw poultry such as chicken, turkey, etc. Cooking meat thoroughly usually kills the bacteria. Campylobacter may also be found in unpasteurised milk or untreated water (including ice cubes made from untreated water). Occasionally, mushrooms and shellfish can contain campylobacter.

Pets (including cats and dogs) and other animals infected with campylobacter can also pass on the bacteria to you. For example, cases of campylobacter have occurred after visiting farms. (Note: in animals, campylobacter rarely causes any symptoms for the animals themselves.)”

So best have a vegetarian festivity and don’t buy a pet: a dog is not just for Christmas.

Thanks Malcolm. Duck’s pretty much of the menu now I should think, chicken’s going the same way, and turkey has a question mark over it. The good thing is that, so far as Christmas dinners are concerned, they are mostly cooked [if not over-cooked] at home rather than bought on the street and I would guess the universal outcome is a safe meal. I think the public health advice not to wash poultry under running water should be more prominent; many might not understand the reason.

ChickenKing says:
20 November 2014

Campylobacter is killed after cooking for 30 seconds at 75C

“People are being sold chickens with potentially lethal levels of bacteria, but action is not happening quickly enough to clean up this mess.

We want supermarkets, the Food Standards Agency and the chicken processing industry to make our chicken safe by:

1) Immediately setting out the action they will individually and collectively take to bring Campylobacter levels under control

2) Making public the results of Campylobacter testing
If you agree, sign our petition to make chicken safe:”

” The latest available figures for deaths registered in the United Kingdom are for the year 2010. We are therefore not able to provide figures for 2011.

In the United Kingdom there were 35 deaths with an underlying cause related to food poisoning in 2010. The International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) codes used to define food poisoning are presented in Box 1. Although all of the causes of death included in the answer are related to the ingestion of food, it is not possible to say whether these deaths were definitely associated with the ingestion of food, water or any other substance, since this is not routinely recorded on the death certificate.”

Box 1: Causes of death related to food poisoning—International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10)
ICD-10 code(s) Cause of death
A00-A01 Cholera, Typhoid and paratyphoid fevers
A02 Other salmonella infections (excluding typhoid and paratyphoid fevers)
A04.0 Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli infection
A04.1 Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli infection
A04.2 Enteroinvasive Escherichia coli infection
A04.3 Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli infection
A04.4 Other intestinal Escherichia coli infection
A04.5 Campylobacter enteritis
A05 Other bacterial foodborne intoxications
A07 Other protozoal intestinal diseases
A32 Listeriosis
B66.1 Clonorchiasis
B66.3 Fascioliasis
B66.4 Paragonimiasis
B68-B70 Taeniasis, Cysticercosis, Diphyllobothriasis and sparganosis
B75 Trichinellosis
B81.0 Anisakiasis
T62 Toxic effect of other noxious substances eaten as food (where X49, X69 or Y19 is the underlying cause)
T64 Toxic effect of aflatoxin and other mycotoxin food contaminants (where X49, X69 or Y19 is the underlying cause)
X49 Accidental poisoning by and exposure to other and unspecified chemicals and noxious substances (where T62 or T64 is the secondary cause)
X69 Intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to other and unspecified chemicals and noxious substances (where T62 or T64 is the secondary cause)
Y19 Poisoning by and exposure to other and unspecified chemicals and noxious substances, undetermined intent (where T62 or T64 is the secondary cause)

Would you like to ask a question like this yourself? Use our Freedom of Information site.

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 25 January 2012, c266W)


I think we are not doing enough to highlight how dangerous food is, and all the potential food sources that kill. A death rate of 1 in 1,714,285 is unacceptable in a modern democracy and advice for people to cook properly is manifestly failing to stop the lethal food poisoning epidemic.

dieseltaylor, I’m not sure what this is meant to demonstrate. If it includes death from self-prepared food that may have been badly prepared, badly kept, well past its sell by date, rather than only due to food contaminated when supplied by a retailer, then I do not know what it tells us.

I think perhaps it shows that when Which claims “lethal levels of bacteria” they may be overegging the dangers for effect rather than informing the public in a responsible manner as to the number of deaths FROM ALL CAUSES of food poisoning.

The number of days lost to illness caused by foood poisoning as compared to novirus, flu etc is of course more interesting data.

As a general rule when someone tries to get me to sign up for somthing by providing emotional wording and idealised outcomes with out any practicalities mentioned I :
Ask for the Evidence : )

as it stands it rather seems we need to fend for ourselves in trying to get facts. I wonder if Which? has a policy paper?

Dieseltaylor – According to the Food Standards Agency, campylobacter is believed to be responsible for about 280,000 cases of food poisoning in the UK each year, with 72,000 confirmed cases, and it is estimated that there are 100 deaths per year caused by campylobacter.

The problem is sufficiently bad for the public to be advised not to wash chicken to avoid cross contamination.

I do not believe that Which? is acting irresponsibly at all. I would like Which? staff to appear on TV to raise awareness of food poisoning in a way that raises public concern but not panic. Perhaps if sale of chicken is halved, we might see some prompt action to address the problem.

I am interested to see that the FSA believes, and estimates, and wonder WC did you see any links to source material. Do not get me wrong I do believe in good food hygiene and the figures are probably good. It is a matter of context .

I have been taking more than a passing interest in Norovirus where in some years in the UK over a million people are affected and an extimated 80 people over the age of 65 die from it. The total for the whole population may have been interesting – and I have a suspicion that the 100 est. deaths quoted by the FSA may be also age loaded.

I am one of those people, and I think the early Consumers’ Association member were , of the type that were keen to be able to analyse the data. You may recall when the campaign to bash the energy companies was at its height that nobody appeared to be interested in the fact that the UK was in the lowest quartile for both gas and electricity prices per unit..

If you have ever read the “Economist” one feels that the data and thought in the article is always pretty rigorous and I find that comforting.

Dieseltaylor – I very much understand your concerns. I worked in science, where it was normal practice to justify statements in reports, papers and reviews with references to the source of the information. The figures I quoted above are from the Food Standards Agency’s website and I have made a couple of guarded statements: ‘believed to be responsible’ and ‘estimated that’. I expect that some of the newspaper articles about the campylobacter problem will have used the figures without qualification. [To support this, I’ve had a look at the Mail website and seen this in a headline: “Official watchdog’s cookery advice over bug that hits 500,000 Britons a year and kills 100” 🙁

It is very difficult to be certain about the cause of death, when various factors could be involved. As you say, age could be an important factor. Some hospital deaths are of elderly patients who have been infected with MRSA during their stay, but MRSA may not be mentioned on the death certificate.

I have found no information to support the FSA figures or to provide evidence that monitoring is done in a proper scientific manner. Hopefully those looking at ways of tackling the problem are provided with the data. I’m disappointed that the FSA has not responded to me when I contacted them about the campylobacter issue, several months ago.

Though I’m like you and would like to look at data and interpret it for myself, there is the danger that others could misuse the data to make false claims. You only need to have a look at how science is misused, which is why we have the ‘Ask for Evidence’ campaign that we have been discussing.

Point of View

Thanksgiving dinner’s sad and thankless

Christmas dinner’s dark and blue

When you stop and try to see it

From the turkey’s point of view.

Sunday dinner isn’t sunny

Easter feasts are just bad luck

When you see it from the viewpoint

Of a chicken or a duck.

Oh how I once loved tuna salad

Pork and lobsters, lamb chops too

‘Til I stopped and looked at dinner

From the dinner’s point of view.

Shel Silverstein

Life is Cheep?: Viva! investigates Britain’s chicken factories

The Co-op is to sell chickens in oven-ready bags to help protect the public from the risk of handling the raw meat: http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/buying-and-supplying/co-op-to-make-all-its-whole-chickens-roast-in-bag/373711.article

I expect that other retailers will do the same, but hopefully this will not diminish the effort to tackle the campylobacter problem at source.

I think we can get paranoid about handling meat – and if we are not careful we can exacerbate this with headline-grabbing campaigns. “Potentially lethal” might be accurate, but so is driving a car or travelling by plane. Facts, properly presented, should be the basis on which we can reach judgements – otherwise we might simply stop eating poultry altogether.

We regularly cook a “bagged” chicken from M&S – not for safety but because it tastes good.

Eleanor in the intro wants polythene gloves to handle chicken. If that feels more comfortable they are readily available; just type “polythene gloves food handling” in Google and a number of suppliers wil appear.

I’m still waiting to see if there is any difference between retailers in levels of campylobacter – I hope they list them by name. Just as important is to know where they source them from as well.

I agree that we should not be paranoid. I still wash chicken, but take care to avoid cross contamination. As most of us are aware it is possible to do things that are potentially dangerous in a safe way. It’s all about risk assessment and taking appropriate measures. I’m not advocating that others should wash their chicken.

I would be interested to know if supermarkets tend to use the same supplier or switch according to what is available and the price, in the same way that a model of computer might contain a hard drive from various different manufacturers.

First the Co-op and now Marks and Spencer bagging their chicken to protect us from touching the meat: http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/buying-and-supplying/ms-rolling-out-action-plan-to-combat-campylobacter/373837.article

Who will be the first to mark their packaging ‘Biohazard – do not open’.

Very funny WC – gave me a laugh!!!

Of course the next scare will be increasing food costs for the poorly paid ..

Details here and presumably the same as for Co-op who use the same supplier:

The five-point action plan in detail
The five-point M&S action plan has been implemented with 2 Sisters Food Group since the end of September and will be rolled out to the remainder of the M&S supply chain by the end of the year.
Zero thinning
M&S farmers that supply to 2 Sisters Food Group have stopped part-harvesting chickens from flocks through the growing cycle, known in the industry as operating a ‘zero thinning’ policy. This minimises stress, protects the flock’s integrity and improves animal health and welfare. It reduces stress levels amongst chickens and, in turn, levels of campylobacter. This will be rolled out to all M&S farms by the end of the year.
Rapid surface chilling
New technology is in place at 2 Sisters Food Group that rapidly chills whole chickens as they are processed. This reduces campylobacter levels on food production sites.
Front of pack labelling
Front of pack labelling on all M&S whole chickens is now even clearer. They now carry a large, front-of-pack label that says “Washed and Ready to Cook”. This is in addition to back-of-pack food hygiene information and cooking times.
Double bagging
85% of M&S whole chickens are now ‘double bagged’ which means the chicken can be placed straight into the oven in a bag. The customer doesn’t need to unwrap the product pre-cooking, reducing the risk of cross-contamination in the kitchen.
Farmer bonus scheme
M&S has introduced a bonus scheme for farmers that supply to 2 Sisters Food Group which offers farmers a bonus if they produce campylobacter-free farms. This is in addition to the ongoing M&S incentive programme for high standards of animal welfare on farms.

It’s good to hear of such action. There is more at http://www.2sfg.com/about-us/how-we-work/campylobacter/. It will be interesting to see if FSA data shows the performance, by name, of both supermarkets and their suppliers. I wonder if all the three supermarkets mentioned – Co-op, M&S and Tesco source all their chicken from one source. What about chicken pieces and the “value” products?
I suppose it all starts at the chicken coop?

wavechange wrote: “Who will be the first to mark their packaging ‘Biohazard – do not open’. ”

Quote of the week, I think?

dieseltaylor wrote:
“Double bagging
85% of M&S whole chickens are now ‘double bagged’ which means the chicken can be placed straight into the oven in a bag. “.

I have never been comfortable with heating a plastic bag (or tray) in an oven.
I have a primal fear that ‘something’ in the plastic will leach into my food.
One of those ‘something’s had the tasty name of “phthalates”, but the food industry now assures us they are phthalate-free.
I am not re-assured.

Bib1 – The safety of our food is very much in the hands of the producers and there is little we can do as individuals to check for dangers. I rarely buy food in plastic containers that can be put in the microwave. If I do, I transfer the contents into another container such as a glass casserole dish.

Plastic is a great way of wrapping cheese to prevent contamination, but if the wrong plastic is used to wrap fatty foods, plasticisers can migrate to the food.

I’m not reassured either, but when a government agency tells me that it’s not safe to wash chicken, I am concerned, and we should have taken action long ago.

Many of the supermarkets and various other companies use the 2 Sisters Food Group to supply chicken. The information provided on their website is very positive:

“2 Sisters Food Group is doing more than any other food processor or retailer in leading the fight against campylobacter.

In 2013, we launched the UK’s largest study aimed at helping the poultry industry reduce campylobacter levels in chickens.

Working in conjunction with the FSA (Food Standards Agency), DEFRA and a number of our retail customers, 2 Sisters’ objective is to ensure the study will generate robust data to make a significant contribution in tackling campylobacter throughout the industry.”

That seems very positive, but the company has come in for some criticism. Here, for example, is a report published several months ago: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/23/-sp-revealed-dirty-secret-uk-poultry-industry-chicken-campylobacter

The 2 Sisters criticism arose last July, among other suppliers. Why have we not heard more about the basis of the Guardian’s investigation?

The FSA say “The FSA will name retailers, alongside campylobacter levels, when it releases its next set of results in November.” I’m looking forward (perhaps not!) to seeing how the main retailers comparer. I wonder, though, how you deal with the many other outlets for fresh and cooked chicken. So we also need to know how different distributors / processors compare to at least see whether there are good suppliers and bad suppliers.

We were in M&S today and saw their double-bagged whole chickens with good basic instructions on the label. The outer bag is removed before cooking. We’ve had their cook-in-bag barbecue chicken before and the method works very well.

I have my reservations about anything reported in the press, but any serious concerns should be fully investigated and appropriate action taken. Without further information, it may be that the companies involved have just been told to clean up their act. We don’t know if similar companies are better or worse. Rightly or wrongly, it concerns me that so many retailers are sourcing their chicken from the same supplier.

I cannot say that I would be happy to pop a chicken straight in the oven without a good inspection inside and out for foreign objects, high risk material such as the remains of intestines, or evidence of disease. I once found a bag of giblets in a bird that was sold without giblets.

We will have some interesting information to chew over in the next week.

wavechange: “We will have some interesting information to chew over in the next week ….”.

Are you planning on washing it before you chew it over?

Bib1 – Very probably, but let me do a risk assessment. 🙂

Excellent work by the Guardian. I hope they get all the credit they are due for loading and priming the “gun”.

It is always interesting to find out who does original investigation/research that results in Govt. bodies reacting to being put on the spot.

Here is a more recent article by the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/18/chicken-uk-campylobacter-contaminated-fresh-supermarkets-fsa-freeze

It is interesting to read:

“However, Richard Griffiths, the director of food policy at the council, admitted that even if birds test positive, the chickens are still sold by supermarkets.

Unlike salmonella, another common food poisoning bacteria found in chicken, there is no legislation to prevent meat contaminated with campylobacter from being sold to the public.”

This link is to the FSA’s strategy. It is only looking at the major retailers – Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda, Waitrose, M&S, Co-op and Morrisons. Do Lidl and Aldi not sell fresh chicken?

It seems a pity they are not checking the UK processors / distributors.


Slightly off-topic but very interesting news story about chickens being good for us.


It may be comforting for those who have recovered from a campylobacter infection to know that they may have immunity against future infections.

I wonder if those chickens/hens that are kept as pets and well looked after are carriers of campylobacter, or if this is a consequence of intensive rearing.

My parents during their retirement kept chickens and my mother had a particular pet favourite and so named it Godfrey. One day she went into the garden to pay her respects and shock horror no Godfrey! My father never admitted responsibility for Godfreys demise but I did establish they had chicken for dinner the day before it disappeared with no adverse effects such as campylobacter! Needless to say Godfrey was never seen again. I never established whether Godfrey was the only option for dinner that day or whether it was receiving more attention than my father but I suspect the latter was more likely to be the case.

After reading the reports on campylobacter I would never cook any bird without a meat thermometer as an added precaution. I usually give it a wipe over with kitchen paper soaked in cider vinigar, smother it in honey and herbs before cooking.

Apparently dogs and cats can also carry campylobacter, but are unaffected by it. They can pass it on to humans. What do we do about them (the pets)?

I missed this recent short press release by Which?

“‘Complete cop out to try to put responsibility on consumers’ – our response to campylobacter tests
18 November 2014
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
“It’s a complete cop out to try to put responsibility on consumers to have to clean up poor practices caused earlier in the food supply chain. The FSA, retailers and poultry producers need to make lowering campylobacter levels a much greater priority. The poultry industry must also clean up its act and be more accountable and transparent.”

Of course Richard needs an invitation to appear on TV to spread the word.

Of course it is a “complete cop out” so let’s bury our heads in the sand. Whilst there is campylobacter around we should be educating people in how to deal with it. There are other kitchen hygeine issues we should also observe – cooking pork properly for example, not using the same utensils for raw and cooked meats etc.
I’d be more for less headlineworthy quotes, and more for showing how to take precautions, and how to eradicate it in the first place. Is eradication that easy?

As pets can be a source it appears they need to eradicated – I suspect though that as this may prove unpopular it has not been mentioned by the authorities. I wonder how many of the 100 [estimated] deaths may actually be caused by the elderly with their pets?

If the statement was misleading like much of the advertising we read I would agree with you, Malcolm. I don’t believe it is misleading. The producers are failing to tackle a serious problem despite pressure to improve standards. Of course we should teach good hygiene in the home, but that’s a separate issue. When trying to make an impact you should always focus on the message you want to get across.

I’m more than happy with their recent contribution regarding the campylobacter problem. On the other hand, I’m disappointed that Which? is not seeking an outright ban on unsolicited phone calls.

There was nothing misleading – it is just the demonising approach that wrankles with me. Whilst we have campylobacter we should be advised / educated in taking precautions to deal with it until it is eradicated – if that is possible. We need a positive attitude towards a solution, not simply slagging the retailers off.

It will be interesting to see if there is any distinction between the retailers an levels, but I think it more important to look at the producers where it all starts.

Dieseltaylor – Although we have been told that poultry is the main reason for cases of campylobacter infections, it would be interesting to know if pets are a significant cause of infections in humans. We could do with some data! The pet leaflet you provided a link for mentions treatment of humans with antibiotics. To the best of my knowledge, infections are normally self-limiting.

Malcolm – My view is that we should be looking at the producers rather than retailers – as I have already posted. If it is known in the industry that producer X is consistently better than producer Y, then a retailer might deserve criticism for staying with the poor quality supplier. We will have information about the supermarkets soon, but unless there are some pleasant surprises I’m not planning to eat much chicken in the near future.

I have been looking for information about the possibility of tackling the campylobacter problem by vaccination of chickens and humans.

A vaccine against one of the two strains of campylobacter responsible for infections has been approved in the US: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/05/campylobacter-vaccine-in-human-trials/#.VHIkT0tGs-O

Development of a vaccine for the animals is at an earlier stage: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3145176/

Vaccination could be particularly useful for those who work in the factories that process chicken.

Sam, is Which? pressing the FSA to examine the producers’ and distributors’ roles in this – more important perhaps than the retailers. How is imported chicken controlled?

Sam, thanks for those two replies. It is worrying that the EU has not addressed this – I expect it may take beaurocratic years. Apparently pork also carries campylobacter (as well as pets and turkey). I don’t like the thought of pumping drugs into food – they end up in us. Since it is killed by proper cooking, do we need to educate the public better, but also check cooked-chicken outlets and threaten sanctions – temporary closure – if campylobacter is still present in what they sell (as well as perpetrating other dangerous practices?)

It’s helpful that Sam has confirmed that there is no current limit for campylobacter in fresh poultry. With a substantial proportion of chicken contaminated with campylobacter, perhaps it is time to impose such a limit.

Traditional testing methods for campylobacter are slow, and rapid methods based on biosensors are still in development. Improved technology will help us to get to grips with the problem, but the industry should be acting now and funding investigation of how best to tackle campylobacter.

Around 670,000 tonnes imported. Very interesting read.

It certainly is interesting information. I would not have guessed that the UK is the largest producer of chicken meat in the EU (Fig. 3.3).