Food Poisoning Bug Found In Two Thirds Of Retail Chicken

New research has revealed that a common food bug which can cause severe food poisoning is present in almost two-thirds of the chicken on sale in UK supermarkets and other retail outlets.
A survey carried out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found 65 per cent of the fresh chicken samples tested were contaminated with campylobacter, the most common bacterial cause of food poisoning in Britain. It also discovered that salmonella was present in 6 per cent of the samples.
Campylobacter is responsible for around 55,000 cases of food poisoning in Britain every year, with the majority of victims suffering from diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.
In rare cases the bug can even prove fatal, with a reported eighty people dying after contracting the bacteria in 2007.
The FSA said although the campylobacter can be found on meat, unpasteurised milk and untreated water, there was evidence that chicken was the most common source of the bug, accounting for 30 to 40 per cent of cases.
However, it added that cleaning and cooking the meat thoroughly kills the bacteria and avoiding cross-contamination with other foods or work surfaces reduces the chances of it spreading.
Andrew Wadge, director of food safety at the FSA, said the poultry industry should take action to try to reduce levels of campylobacter infection.
He commented: “The continuing low levels of salmonella are encouraging, but it is disappointing that the levels of campylobacter remain high.”
“It is obvious more needs to be done to get these levels down and we need to continue working with poultry producers and retailers to make this happen.”
The FSA tested a total of 3,274 samples of chilled and frozen chicken on sale at retail outlets across the UK for the presence of campylobacter and salmonella, between May 2007 and September 2008.
The agency said its results showed it would miss its target of halving the prevalence of campylobacter in UK produced chicken to 35 per cent by 2010.