Food Standards Agency
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Consumers call for more action on campylobacter

We have yesterday published research which shows that consumers want the food industry to continue action to tackle campylobacter on chickens – the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK.

New findings show that two thirds (66%) of consumers think the industry should continue to reduce campylobacter beyond the agreed current target of less than 10% of chickens at the most highly contaminated level. Retailers should also be telling customers what proportion of chickens are at this highest level of contamination, according to 75% of those questioned.

The research has been released to coincide with the resumption this month of our campylobacter survey, part of our on-going efforts to reduce the high levels of food poisoning caused by the bug. Testing was suspended in April so we could update the way the survey was carried out to ensure results continued to be robust.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said:

“Publishing surveillance data on campylobacter has prompted action from retailers and processors and we are now seeing progress. Our campaign has also raised awareness of campylobacter amongst the public and it is good to see from our research that it is customers, and not just the FSA, demanding action and information from retailers. We have always said that consumer power will ultimately push industry action.

“Many retailers and processors should be commended for the action they have taken so far.  The majority signed up to the pledge to ensure that campylobacter in chicken ceases to be a significant public health issue, and continued action will be needed to deliver this.”

The FSA’s research shows that 76% of people questioned want retailers to be more proactive in telling them what actions they are taking to reduce the campylobacter levels on the raw chicken they sell. More than half of people (53%) said that they would start buying chicken from another retailer if their usual shop was found to sell more than the industry average ‘high risk’ chicken.

Read the full report here

Consumer acceptability of campylobacter levels in chicken (651.86 KB)

Consumer acceptability of campylobacter levels in chicken - Annex (1.20 MB)

Signs of progress

The campylobacter survey was started in 2014 and results were published quarterly. By the beginning of this year we were pleased to see they showed a reduction in the number of chickens that tested positive for the highest level of contamination, from 19% in December 2014 to 11% in February 2016.

The current survey will run from August 2016 to July 2017 and sample 4000 fresh whole chilled chickens from all major UK retailers and independent shops. Results will be published quarterly with comparisons between the retail chains available to consumers. The first set of results is expected in January 2017.


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