Study: One In Five Chickens Contaminated
One in five supermarket chickens is contaminated with the food poisoning bacteria campylobacter, according to an investigation - spurring claims of "scaremongering" by a retail consortium.
The study involved poultry bought from nine of the UK's major supermarkets by the Which? consumer group.
As well as 18% of the samples containing campylobacter, 17% of them were contaminated with listeria, with salmonella present in 1.5% of the 192 chickens tested.
Whole chickens and chicken portions - standard, free range and organic, and all reared in the UK - were tested.
They came from Aldi, Asda, The Co-operative, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose.
Bacterial contamination was found in samples from each of the retailers.
But Which? stressed the study was a "snapshot" as it tested each retailer on two days in different locations, and was therefore unable to definitively conclude that chicken from one supermarket was better than that from another.
Sky News contacted all nine of the supermarkets tested in the survey. Most of them referred us to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The BRC's food director Andrew Opie said: "Which? is scaremongering. Campylobacter is completely killed by normal cooking so providing people prepare chicken properly and follow sensible hygiene practices they're at no risk."
He went on: "To talk about campylobacter contamination is misleading. It's a naturally occurring bacteria which lives inside healthy chickens, as well as other pets and animals.
"Retailers, farmers and meat producers are all working together, along with the Government, on ways to reduce its presence. There's been massive progress in recent years but scientists are still learning more about the organism and how best to deal with it."
That statement appeared to be backed up by the Which? figures. They showed a marked improvement in 2009, when the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found (in a similar but not directly comparable test) that 65% of chickens were contaminated with campylobacter at the point of sale.
Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, according to the FSA. It is found mainly in poultry, but also in red meat, unpasteurised milk and untreated water.
In 2009, it was responsible for over 371,000 cases of food poisoning, including 88 deaths.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "We want to see the risk of contamination minimised at every stage of production, because for far too long consumers have been expected to clean up mistakes made earlier in the supply chain."
British Poultry Council chief executive Peter Bradnock said: "This report makes it clear that chicken is a safe and healthy product when properly cooked.
"These welcome findings show a big reduction in campylobacter presence on chicken, demonstrating the effectiveness of the biosecurity measures being taken by producers and processors against this naturally occurring bacteria."
Lidl issued a separate statement to Sky News saying: "All farms used to produce our fresh poultry range are members of the Assured Food Standards scheme for poultry, commonly known as the Red Tractor scheme, and are subject to independent third-party audits.
"Scheme members have to conform to requirements beyond base legal requirements to maintain accreditation.
"Furthermore, all slaughtering sites used to produce our fresh poultry range are BRC accredited and therefore undergo third-party audits to ensure they conform to the BRC standard."
A spokesperson from The Co-operative Food said: "We are committed to providing customers with safe and healthy foods, and we are working with the Government and the rest of the industry to reduce the presence of this bacteria in chicken.
"However, it is important to stress that chicken that has been cooked properly is perfectly safe to eat. This is a naturally occurring bacteria, which is killed when chicken is prepared and cooked properly."
As a basic guide to food safety regarding chicken, it is vital to cook it thoroughly - the inside must be hot with no pink visible, and juices must run clear. Cooking at temperatures above 70C (165F) will kill bacteria.
what do you think?
It's raw meat..ofc it's going to have bacteria such as this on it..thats the idea of cooking it properly and therefore killing said bacteria..Anyone in the world would get food poisoing from the cleanest chicken in the world if not cooked..Sounds just like sensationalist reporting again from people who have too much money and dont know what to do with it....
I did several years ago suscribe to Which when i was in the electrical retail trade and so many of thier reports were so totaly incorect that i gave up suscribing to the comic .
Here in France the cooked smoked chickens are in the same chill compartment as the raw chickens. There is no divider so they are touching. There would be uproar in the UK.
it is a known fact that when you take a job in a chicken facility that you will spend time off work with Campylobacter, once you have had it, you are then immune to it whilst at work. employers in this industry pay their new staff whilst they are off for the couple of weeks that it takes to clear as it is seen as an unavoidable occupational hazard. we all know the cooking rules for chicken, and if you follow them, it is a perfectly safe product to eat.
Sue, so there should be, it is both bad practice and dangerous to be so blase to the risk of cross contamination (and illegal in this country)
Blah blah blah! Here we go .....AGAIN!!!!!
Yep, that's what I've been eating for the past few decades. ? What is campy_lo_bacter? ... "Hello, campers."? ...
Thats good, the price will drop and i can stock up my freezer.
BREAKING NEWS. Eating Cooked Meat is healthier than eating Uncooked Meat. For more astonishing advice, please buy Which Magazine. MORE BREAKING NEWS.. Buying Which Magazine is a waste of money.
Ha ha! Well said Grant!
"Which" is in the same league as "Health & Safety", obsessed with trivia and inconsequential nonsense. In the case of chicken and other raw meat, cooking properly removes the risks. As other contributors have said, there are no risks if basic hygiene, preparation and cooking are followed. Frightening people with "Tabloid" style headlines is totally irresponsible.
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This comment has been removed for violations of our Terms and Conditions.
tell us something we dont already know ....thats why we cook our chickens well and dont cross contaminate ??
I think Which? has gone past its use by date
All meat needs to be cooked properly to destroy any bacteria present. It really worries me watching the "cookery experts" serving up meat thats red and uncooked. They all seem to think its OK but the bacteria burden must be high because instead of destroying them, they actually thrive and multiple in warm conditions. Another factor should be considered when buying from supermarkets, and that is how many times the meat has been handled by other customers and how clean were their hands?
Highly unprofessional of WHICH to report like this and trying to scare the public. Will certainly help with the recession won't it??? The report does not state how much bacteria is already present in the home from the bathroom to the kitchen, on worksurfaces and utensils. The public may clean effectively with household disinfectants but it only reduces to a safe level and bacteria, starting from only one spore, multiplies every twenty minutes so unless you clean like a madman every hour you will not be sterlie and will still have bacteria present. Don't forget the number of households who have pets. They too carry infectious bacteria. Maybe we should all get rid of our pets, live in bubbles and eat bread and water???
If you saw the conditions the poor beasts are reared in nobody should be surprised that they are crawling with bacteria. I am amazed it is only 20%. Anyhow a few extra bugs are good for keeping your immune ststem up to date. Only ones I know that eat raw chicken are foxes.
this report only goes to show that a lack of more important news .so lets start scaremongering. in the food sector.
Cynthia Maher Spencer
Hardly suprising - mass market chicken is a filthy meat, imho.