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Supermarkets must publish their Campylobacter action plans

Which? Chicken Mascot

We have today written to the seven major supermarkets calling on them to make publicly available plans on how they will tackle Campylobacter, with clear timescales for action. Read our letter from Richard Lloyd:

Dear Chief executive,

It is now almost six weeks since the Food Standards Agency released data showing scandalously high levels of Campylobacter in chicken. Consumers need reassurance that supermarkets are taking this seriously and doing all they can to address the problem.

Nearly 30,000 people have signed up to support our campaign to ‘Make Chicken Safe’. Our latest research found six in ten consumers expressed concern about the high levels of Campylobacter found in supermarket chickens, with three-quarters saying they thought they were too high. More than half thought there wasn’t enough information available about Campylobacter levels in chicken.

While we welcome the progress made so far, we urge you to take a more visible and coordinated industry wide approach so that consumers can be confident that everything possible is being done to tackle this potentially fatal bug. We have previously been in touch with your teams and are calling for every major supermarket to publish a plan of action by the end of January and to make this publicly available and published on your website, with a timeframe for taking action.

The plan should be an integrated programme of both immediate and planned interventions along the food chain (from incentivising farmers to improve controls through to use of blast surface chilling, for example) targeted at reducing levels of Campylobacter as quickly as feasible.

We would like to secure your public support in showing consumers that you are committed to tackling this problem and look forward to hearing how you propose to take this matter forward.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Lloyd,  Executive Director


I am very encouraged that Which? is keeping up the pressure on the supermarkets, though perhaps the same challenge should be extended to all retailers. Marks & Spencer has already published a brief five point action plan, though I’m disappointed that they are continuing to use the 2 Sisters Food Group as a source of chicken.

The reporting of the campylobacter issue by the Guardian has been commendable and they are obviously still on the case, having already published a report that Which? has written to the supermarkets.

I have written to the Food Standards Agency, asking it to present future findings in a way that is easier for the public to comprehend. Simple bar charts are better than tables of figures and the use of technical terms such as cfu/g is not appropriate for the general public.

As far as I’m concerned, chicken and turkey are off the menu for the foreseeable future.


We also have stopped eating chicken.

Have you noticed that nearly all ready meals now contain chicken? We like to keep a few in the freezer and had great difficulty find anything we wanted.

So supermarkets, please can we have more lamb or beef?


alfa, as always, you can eat chicken if you cook it properly.


I had food poisoning from prawns that was rather unpleasant so just the thought of eating chicken containing something that could also make me ill rather puts me off.


alfa, I respect your feelings, but if people understand that apparently cooking chicken properly removes the likelihood of contracting a campylobacter infection then their fears should at least be rationalised. We had the same feelings over beef and BSE, eggs and salmonella. We should simply present the facts and not produce headlines such as “chicken can kill you” without qualification. So can air travel. I still would be very wary about eating chicken not cooked at home though as I’d have no knowledge of how well it was cooked.


The larger retailers clearly can have a great impact by controlling their supply chain – in so far as control of campylobacter is possible. Publishing their data needs to be done on an agreed and consistent basis – they will try to shine the best light on their performance. While I agree with pictorial representations of data we also need the real data behind them so those with some expert knowledge of the problems can make well-informed comments.

I regularly eat chicken, turkey only twice a year, and am in good health like many millions of others – probably because we cook it properly. Don’t eat unopened cooked mussels, don’t eat undercooked pork, don’t reheat cooked food – many precautions we need to take to avoid potential illness.


I wonder at two things.

Firstly, campylobacter is the responsibility of FSA to deal with. I support Which? in keeping the problem in the public eye but what are they doing to liaise and support FSA? Why are they, and not FSA, telling retailers what they should do. Do they regard the FSA as a failure?

Secondly, there are many other outlets that sell chicken apart from major supermarkets – maybe with less stringent quality control. How are we checking on these? Seems to me the best place to concentrate our attention is on the source of chicken – the importers and the chicken processors where many of the pracrises that can reduce campylobacter can be introduced. So what are FSA doing about this?. Manta lists 45 UK processors – some, like 2 Sisters, major ones, others smaller.


I wonder when we will find out whether the campylobacter problem is mainly related to farming or processing of chicken. I believe that the public deserves to know.

It came as a surprise to me that most of the supermarkets are using either 2 Sisters or Faccenda to provide their chicken.