/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Supermarket Campylobacter results under the microscope

As you’ll be aware, we’ve been calling on the Food Standards Agency to publish the data that details the levels of Campylobacter per supermarket. Well, today they’ve done just that.

The FSA has published the results of its findings for the main supermarkets. Unfortunately Asda’s samples tested highest for levels of Campylobacter at 78%. This was followed by the Co-operative Food (73%), Morrisons (69%), Waitrose (69%), Sainsbury’s (69%), Marks and Spencer (67%) and Tesco (64%).  The full table of results is below:

FSA Campylobacter results per supermarket

In my last post a number of you asked what people can do to prevent food poisoning – so we’ve published some cooking with chicken tips on our site.

Others asked just how badly the food poisoning affects individuals. We’ve received thousands of comments on this through our petition and wanted to share some of the experiences people have taken the time to share with us.

Campylobacter case studies

A number of our supporters have really been knocked for six with the bug. Alan feels he’s never fully recovered from the food poisoning:

‘A few years ago I was admitted to hospital with severe Campylobacter and was in hospital for two weeks. I was severely very ill. An experience I do not want repeated. I was quite a stocky person & lost a lot of weight. I never regained the weight.’

Unfortunately Campylobacter hit the whole of Julie’s family:

‘Horrific incident when my young twins, small son and my husband and I all got Campylobacter from chicken cooked by my elderly mother in law.’

And Sandra told us:

‘I ended up in hospital with this as the doctor had to record my details to send to the health board to report my hospitalization. I was admitted for three days and had to go on a drip. I could only eat light meals when I came home and it wasn’t until another two months before I felt okay. If supermarkets aren’t following health rules when it comes to the food standards they should be held accountable for this as people such as the elderly have weak immune systems besides others. They are putting lives at risk.’

We want to see supermarkets not only publishing effective plans that tackle these scandalously high levels but also demonstrate they’re taking real action to make chicken safe. So, will today’s publication of the supermarkets’ levels of Campylobacter affect how and where you shop? And do you think supermarkets and poultry producers are doing enough?


Perhaps I’ll ad a little here
Many and I really many of the farmers are not in control of much of the events so I feel I have to stand up for the farmers here
There may be some that think that the farmer simply supplies the market in the same way as say beef but this commodity is far from the farmers control

These chicken/poultry farmers are often in a contract with the processors and are not in control of anything as such
This is nothing new to me as I sit in the midst of agri and probably because it is every day knowledge to me I somehow supposed it would or should be common knowledge to everyone which after re-reading Malcolms last post I realised is not the case

From the spec for the housing
To the building of the housing
To even the finance of the housing
From many if not every detail it is all under the control of the processors
The farmer simply gets his cut for rearing the birds
The laying of the eggs are by the processors
The incubation of the eggs are by the processors
The inspections are mostly by the processors
The feed is mostly supplied via a contract by the processors
The very LPG contract is mostly between the processors and the gas company

This is the norm around here and we here are a fair sized player in the supply of poultry products and I dont doubt that this is the norm for the rest of the UK

In my eyes and I’m no farmers friend it is not even remotely fair to hold many of these farmers to account for the feedstuffs, antibiotics or any other medicine given to these birds as many have no control over anything apart from hygiene and animal welfare both of which are at the demands and dictated by the processors

I’m sorry if that’s a little of a shock but this is fact and perhaps we better deal in facts


And now Tesco recalls butter for possibly containing a much worse thing that plastic or rubber
I would say that the pressure brought on suppliers/processors by the big supermarkets some much worse than others are the cause of much of these last few problems

Yes Wave you are correct about the amount of contaminated chicken on the shelves. . .I do have the answer as everyone does. . .
Cook all the chicken before it leaves the plant in the same way as some shellfish need cooked. . .
Could this be the place to do this as people dont seem capable of good house keeping. . .
Like most families we have had chicken most weeks for our married life and we have not fallen ill yet. . . My wife though it s*** hot on washing down everything poultry touches and was never off our daughters backs about this


Whilst chickens continue to walk around in each others excrement, I don’t see how it is possible to eradicate the campylobacter bacterium completely. The alternative is to resort to the heartless and ruthless practice of confining them to battery sheds where their droppings are allowed to fall into trays strategically placed underneath and removed when full. This may assist in reducing cross contamination but as campylobacter resides within the chickens gut it would not be a viable or humane solution.

Another alternative is to duplicate American methodology by air freezing and chlorination. Scientists there have recently been engaging in trials by adding chlorine to chicken feed, the results of which so far unfortunately, have proven inconclusive. Personally I always buy frozen chicken which doesn’t completely eradicate the bacterium but does reduce it so is a safer option.

If however people insist on consuming fresh 70% contaminated chicken then retailers and supermarkets, who are ultimately responsible, should attach warnings to all chicken sold on their premises, alerting consumers to the potential dangers of eating infected chicken and to make sure they follow the recommendations laid down by the FSA by not washing and by heating to a temperature of at least 178% during cooking, preferably using a meat thermometer inserted into the coolest part, usually the area nearest the groin.

I hope the scientific community will continue with their endeavours to reach a solution to this enduring problem. In the meantime, farmers and attentive bystanders will remain ever vigilant and hopeful that results will be forthcoming in the not too distant future.


Worth a look.
The campylobacter bacteria are present in the environment and found, for example, in rainwater puddles in the open that poultry may drink from.
For those more susceptible to infection, or those who feel strongly, then do not eat chicken (or other poultry or even “beef, offal and other meats”). For others, observe kitchen hygiene and proper cooking – there are many causes of food poisoning, other than campylobacter, that this will help prevent


According to the FSA, about 80% of cases of campylobacter are due to contaminated poultry. Putting pressure on the industry has achieved what appears to be significant improvements. In my view we should apply pressure for further improvements.

I don’t eat chicken but I want to save others from becoming sick.


Having not had any problems locally with this I had not paid any attention but i’ve been reading as I take my coffee and salmon sandwich
A normal person needs in excess of 10,000 organisms to be likely affected because the organism is sensitive/can be killed by hydrochloric/stomach acid so one needs to consume some of this. . . It is not enough to simply come in contact with it, , you must consume an amount beyond what your stomach will not kill
People with various stomach problems or who use antacids are more easily infected
According to what I’m reading about 1 in 140 people or 500,000 people in the UK fall foul to this every year
There a reported 100 deaths as a result which is lower than that of accidental car fires. .
The above numbers at the beginning of this Which topic are very probably correct but who knows what a “95% confidence factor” is. . .
Personally I dont like these type of things that arrive with all kinds of numbers, , terms and abbreviations that force those interested to look up simply to enable them to understand what should be simple
If we dont keep it simple many will simply stop reading an be off
Perhaps a little explanation with such a term might have helped or a secondary down to earth common man explanation
I can see no reason why the common or garden reader should have to look up such terminoligies
19% of chickens tested pos for the highest band of contamination
73% tested positive for the presence of contamination
0.1% of packaging tested positive for the highest band contamination
7% tested positive for the presence of contamination
I can understand those numbers a little better

I think we need to follow good practice first and foremost
This has been around for some time, , probably earlier than when it was first noted
It is not going away soon
Yes Beryl birds walking around in their own shit is not good and the cage alternative was not generally used for broilers as was not successful for that but was used for layers but layers also have highish rates of the same bug so cages are not the answer either
Having our own birds we have seen a lot of habits in our time
We have never seen birds choose to eat excrement over food as yet. . . That would be dog, , horse, ,pig and so forth
Broilers have food and water available 24/7
If you take the time and watch “the chicken people” you will see the birds are not wading around in their own as was portrayed in many TV programmes. . . Yes there are and were bad farming practices but I hope as a result of better practice that for the most part that has or is disappearing. . . There will always be the neglectful though
Pig farming is another intensive very controlled and potentially problematic food source. . . I seldom eat pork because I would consider it to be a bigger long term chance in comparison to poultry

When I was at school girls (I’m not being sexist) took domestic science which taught them many things and my wife assures me hygiene was high very high on the to do list as such
She was taught never to mix raw meat of any kind and other foods on the same surface without first washing down the surface
Raw meats of any description were to be kept low in the fridge yet today we get what is termed a Veg drawer at the bottom of the fridge
We do not use it for veg, , this is bonkers
Without going into whether religious teaching are right or wrong, , , I dont like being preached at. . I do know however that several religions practice similar food hygiene advice as handed down apparently from God and those religions are very unlikely to be affected by this bug and that advice or for some absolute rules/laws has been around for several 1000s of years. .
Some will not even have raw meat in the same room as veg or cooked meat so someone somewhere many years ago knew more about these potential problems than us 21st century wise guys

I see Wave made mention of barbecue’s. . . We would never have tried barbecuing chicken in the first place unless as my wife demands it is “properly cooked” first and then one can give it the barbecue treatment as such
I have given off about burger/sausages not being cooked all the way through and many have not heard that minced processed meat needs to be cooked all the way through
I think we need a little educating


DK – You have given a figure of 10,000 organisms as the infective dose for campylobacter. I have not looked at the evidence but the usual figure quoted is around 500.

As you say, stomach acid is an important defence against campylobacter infection– and others. A significant proportion of the adult population is taking proton pump inhibitors or other drugs that suppress acid production. Acid production varies during the day and tends to decrease as we get older.


Courtesy of Wiki

Campylobacteriosis, a gastrointestinal infection caused by Campylobacter, is characterized by inflammatory, sometimes bloody diarrhea or dysentery syndrome, mostly including cramps, fever, and pain.[18][19] The most common routes of transmission are fecal-oral, ingestion of contaminated food or water, and the eating of raw meat. Foods implicated in campylobacteriosis include raw or under-cooked poultry, raw dairy products, and contaminated produce.[20] Campylobacter is sensitive to the stomach’s normal production of hydrochloric acid: as a result, the infectious dose is relatively high, and the bacteria rarely cause illness when a person is exposed to less 10,000 organisms.[3] Nevertheless, people taking antacid medication (e. g. people with gastritis or stomach ulcers) are at higher risk of contracting disease from a smaller amount of organisms, since this type of medication inhibits normal gastric acid. The infection is usually self-limiting and, in most cases, symptomatic treatment by liquid and electrolyte replacement is enough in human infections. The use of antibiotics, though, is controversial.[citation needed] Symptoms typically last five to seven days.[20]
The sites of tissue injury include the jejunum, the ileum, and the colon. Most strains of C jejuni produce a toxin (cytolethal distending toxin) that hinders the cells from dividing and activating the immune system. This helps the bacteria to evade the immune system and survive for a limited time in the cells. A cholera-like enterotoxin was once thought to be also made, but this appears not to be the case. The organism produces diffuse, bloody, edematous, and exudative enteritis. Although rarely has the infection been considered a cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, no unequivocal case reports exist. In some cases, a Campylobacter infection can be the underlying cause of Guillain–Barré syndrome. Gastrointestinal perforation is a rare complication of ileal infection.[21]


The infective dose is quoted differently elsewhere on Wikipedia. For example, the entry for campylobacteriosis includes: “The infectious dose is 1000–10,000 bacteria (although ten to five hundred bacteria can be enough to infect humans).” The Wikipedia article on infectious dose gives: “Campylobacter jejuni: low (500 organisms)”. The most commonly used figure is 500 – which could be present in a drop of chicken juice.

We do know that campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning. As the Wikipedia article says a campylobacter infection can lead to Guillain–Barré syndrome, albeit rarely. Most mornings I watch a friend walk slowly past my house, gradually recovering from the paralyis caused by GBS. Hopefully she will get the use of her hands back, but that could take two years.


I dont/didnt disagree with you Wave, , I simply quoted the numbers I read and when you ask about them I went and got them for you
Yes we’d be better without the bug, , period, , end of, , but I dont think it will be anywhere near achievable
Just like us humans who many of whom are no longer affected positively by antibiotics it may be possible this part of the food chain has grown new and or resistant strains of things

I have watched the TV programme and wifey and I have visited our local plants and although I’m no expert I dont know what else they are to do to cut the bug out

As I’ve said before the wife’s brother in law has poultry houses and one could not fault them either

I am not looking for an argument/debate but I simply stated what I have seen with my own eye’s
I think there is possibly bad press around on this and yes there will be bad farmers but they are not near to me and we have loads of these houses nearby in almost every direction

I have sympathy for anyone affected by anything but just like air pollution something we are both interested in one also one has to take in the bigger picture and realise that there is most likely no quick fix
If you dont want to breath large doses of pollutants keep out of the towns and cities. . I dont have a lot of choice in that one

If we know the birds have this bug on/in them and cooking kills it then more emphasis has to be put on cooking not only at home but commercially I’d imagine especially small fast food outlets and restaurants

Again, , , I’m not looking for argument or debates. . From I first posted on this I done nothing but point to what I have seen
I am not defending the farming industry as such but living in the middle of it I cannot help but state what is obvious to me and my neighbours are good farmers
I cannot find and I’ll defy you to come around here and find birds wallowing in excrement. . .
The system simply does not encourage this and hasn’t for some time
Yes they stink me out with spreading shit and I dont like it because I think that much of the spreading carries airborne hazards for me but Most folk like milk, ,beef, , turkey, , chicken and there is not much other way to grow it.
Once i get the whiff I’m in out of it to it passes
Yes the too large machines mess up our roads but I cannot change that and I’m not going to be a big enough p**** to try doing so
I am not a “not on my doorstep” kind of person. . .


Sorry – I should have thanked you, DK. Wikipedia is often a reliable source of information, but my last post illustrates an example of inconsistency.

Having worked with bacteria and other microorganisms, albeit harmless ones, I have an interest in how they can harm us and also the many ways that other bugs are beneficial and even essential to our survival.

I know very little about the industry but believe that with effort, we can cut the number of cases of campylobacter infection. It is fairly clear that the pressures on the retailers to cut contamination have shown some progress. As far as I am aware, none the ‘interventions’ now being used are new ideas, but it has taken external pressure to get them used in combination. I believe that we need to keep up the pressure. The only people I’m likely to argue with are those that play down what is a serious problem.

I believe that developments such as rapid identification of birds that carry campylobacter and effective vaccination of poultry could largely overcome the problem, but in the meantime we have to keep up the pressure to reduce contamination using a combination of ways we know to be effective.