Chicken Bug Retailers Could Be Named
A consumer group is urging food standards bosses to name retailers found selling fresh chickens containing a bug blamed for tens of thousands of cases of food poisoning every year.
The bug campylobacter was found in 59% of samples in a survey by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which also found it on the outside of packaging in 4% of samples.
The agency has declined to name supermarkets and other retailers involved until it has more data from its 12-month survey which runs until February 2015.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: "The FSA's survey reveals unacceptably high levels of campylobacter and they must now publish the names of the retailers so consumers are aware of the best and worst performing shops.
"Campylobacter is responsible for thousands of cases of food poisoning and the deaths of 100 people every year so much more must be done to minimise the risk of contamination at every stage of production."
FSA chief executive Catherine Brown said: "There is still a lot more to be done by all elements of the supply chain to ensure that consumers can be confident in the food they buy.
"As soon as we have enough data to robustly compare campylobacter levels in different retailers we will share that data with consumers."
Over the 12 months 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers will be tested. The new results are for the first quarter and represent 853 samples.
Ms Brown said the survey "will give us a clearer picture of the prevalence of campylobacter on raw poultry sold at retail and help us measure the impact of interventions introduced by producers, processors, and retailers to reduce contamination".
She added: "The chicken supply chain is looking at how interventions such as improved biosecurity on farms, rapid surface chilling, and anti-microbial washes can help reduce campylobacter.
"So when they take action and invest in interventions designed to make a difference, these survey figures will enable us to see if they really do make an impact."
She said low levels of contamination on packaging may show that leak-proof wrappers used by most retailers is working.
Campylobacter is killed by thorough cooking, but is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK. It affects an estimated 280,000 people a year, and the majority of these cases come from contaminated poultry.
The FSA said that previous studies carried out into the prevalence of the bug had also shown around two thirds of raw poultry carry it.