73% of fresh chicken on the market tested positive for food poisoning

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By Yahoo News

Almost three-quarters of fresh shop-bought chickens have tested positive for the food poisoning bug campylobacter.

And around a fifth (19%) were found by the Food Standards Agency study to contain the highest rate of the bug, which is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK.

An estimated 280,000 people get ill from campylobacter each year.

There are indications the problem may have got worse in recent years.

The FSA last carried out a survey into campylobacter in 2009, and while using different methodology then, it found 65% of chickens were infected.

The latest year-long survey examined the prevalence and levels of campylobacter contamination on fresh whole chilled chickens and their packaging.

The results revealed all of the big retailers failed to reach the industry target for reducing the bug during the period of the study which ran over 12 months to February.

Asda had a higher-than-average incidence of chicken contaminated at the highest level, while Tesco was the only supermarket to fall below the industry average.

Tests were carried out on more than 4,000 samples of fresh whole chickens and packaging from large UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers.

A second survey will be launched this summer to examine the effectiveness of measures being taken by the industry to combat the bug.

FSA director of policy Steve Wearne welcomed steps being taken by Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, the Co-op and Waitrose to tackle campylobacter, which the supermarkets’ data showed had led to a reduction in contamination.

Challenging other retailers to follow suit, he added: “As we have always said, if you are prepared to work across the food chain to reduce the spread of this bug then you will get results.”

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “It beggars belief that nearly three-quarters of chickens on sale in supermarkets are still infected with this potentially deadly bug and that no retailers have met the FSA’s target.

“It’s encouraging that all supermarkets other than Sainsbury’s are publicly committed to tackling this bug, but we must now see this commitment turned into urgent action that makes chicken safe.”

The FSA says campylobacter poisoning can be avoided by careful storage and preparation of raw chicken, and cooking it thoroughly.

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