Results are in and it would appear that, while some progress has been made, you are still at risk from Campylobacter food poisoning from supermarket chicken.
It’s coming up to Christmas and the not-so-subtle hints have been coming in thick and fast that I need some practice before the big day. I had it all planned out. Rosemary, lemon, one pot and one chicken – this Sunday, Jamie Oliver was going to guide me through a simple roast with a zesty twist.
So you can understand my disappointment when the latest Food Standards Agency (FSA) results on Campylobacter contamination came in today
Why does this matter?
Three in four chickens sold in supermarkets are still contaminated with the potentially lethal superbug.
Morrisons has topped the list with the highest levels of contamination, followed closely by consistently poor performer Asda.
Along with 34,000 supporters, Which? has called on all major UK supermarkets to publish CEO-endorsed farm-to-fork action plans to tackle Campylobacter. And since then, supermarkets have been given time to trial interventions and change processes to bring levels down.
But it hasn’t been good enough.
Cleaning up their acts
These results were the first test of the industry’s promises to improve levels but only two retailers have met the FSA’s target to reduce the highest levels of contamination to 7%.
More shockingly, the results of three retailers have worsened since the first survey.
But are we really surprised? Last month, Public Health England reported that the number of people infected by Campylobacter in England and Wales is rising.
So if supermarkets and suppliers have really been doing all they can, why is there not consistent improvement across the board?
This isn’t about which supermarket can top the leaderboard. This is about cleaning up their shelves and keeping their customers safe.
The FSA’s results prove that it is possible to meet their target and make chicken safer.
Some retailers have significantly reduced levels of Campylobacter, so the pressure is on the others to explain why they have missed these jointly agreed targets.
Would you expect more from your supermarket?
But it might be worth checking out the FSA’s results before heading to the shops…!
Update: 14 March 2017
New figures from the Food Standard Agency (FSA) show a 17% decline in the number of lab reports of Campylobacter in supermarket chickens in 2016.
As part of an ongoing survey into the food-poisoning bug, a total of 1,492 fresh, shop-bought whole chickens were tested across supermarkets and other outlets, such as local butchers, between August and December 2016.
Overall, 7% of chickens tested positive within the highest band of contamination, down from 12% for the same period in 2015 and 20% in 2014.
Of the nine major retailers included in the survey, Sainsbury’s ranked the supermarket least likely to have contaminated chickens at the highest level, with 2.6% of its chicken samples testing positive for Campylobacter.
Alex Neill, our managing director of home services, said: ‘It is encouraging to see that overall levels of campylobacter in chickens are falling and that major retailers are meeting the FSA’s target.
‘However, there is no room for complacency, as the survey shows that over half of chickens are contaminated and that this can vary greatly depending on where consumers shop.’