The agency say that the presence of Campylobacter in chickens purchased at supermarkets belonging to every major retailer are failing to meet targets aimed at reducing the food poisoning bug.
They have said that their studies discovered that Asda has been selling the highest percentage of chicken contaminated by campylobacter at 78% – with 28% showing the presence of the bug above the highest level of contamination.
It added that the 73% of chicken sold by the Co-op tested positive, 69% from those sold at Morrisons, Waitrose and Sainsbury, and 67% at Marks and Spencer. Tesco showed the lowest level of contamination at 64%.
[box type=”warning”] Campylobacter is a group of germs that are a common cause of food poisoning. The bacteria is commonly found in raw meat and in particular poultry and infection usually causes mild symptoms. It is the most common food bacteria causing food poisoning in the UK.[/box] Almost one-fifth of all chicken tested was found to be positive for the bug at rates above the highest level of contamination in its checks through the second quarter of this year.
The director of quality at the Food Standards Agency, Steve Wearne, said in the report: “These results show that the food industry needs to do more to reduce the amount of campylobacter on fresh chickens.”
However, he added that the risk to the pubic was low provided consumers cooked the chicken thoroughly and correctly followed preparation guidelines.
He added: “There are signs that some retailers are starting to step up to their responsibilities – when more do, we will see improvements that will help prevent many of their customers getting ill.”
Action taken by some retailers has been immediate with the Co-op and Marks & Spencer introducing new ‘roast in the bag’ chickens that minimise the handling they receive in preparation.
A spokeswoman for Asda said: “We are disappointed with these findings – there is no ‘silver bullet’ to tackle the issue but, along with other retailers, we are working hard to find a solution.”