With 65 percent of the raw shop-bought chicken in the United Kingdom contaminated with Campylobacter, a potentially deadly pathogen, the UK’s Food Standards Agency has mapped out a plan to reduce the threat.

The strategy the agency will pursue will include:

-Implementing stricter biosecurity measures across the whole supply chain, such as ensuring hygiene barriers are standard on the farm and include new fly-control systems.

-Developing new standards and additional monitoring for the evisceration process to minimize cross-contamination when chickens are slaughtered.

-Trying out new carcass decontaminating treatments using existing “kitchen cupboard” ingredients, such as lactic acid (and other organic acids), to provide safety and efficacy data for applications to the European Commission to permit their use.

-Investigating the impact of different packaging types on reducing levels of Campylobacter on chickens for retail sale.

The Food Standards Agency actions will be taken in cooperation with poultry farms and chicken retailers and the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra).

“Campylobacter is the single biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK and we have made it our number one food safety priority,” says Liz Redmond, the veterinary director who heads food hygiene policy for the agency.

Redmond said the steps now being taken were developed at an international conference in March.

“We look forward to continuing to work pro-actively with the food industry to implement changes that are aimed at making UK chicken safer and as part of this process will be setting a new target by December 2010 for reducing Campylobacter in chicken by 2015,” Redmond added.

The Food Standards Agency acknowledged in its latest annual report it is not going to meet a previously established goal of reducing Campylobacter by 50 percent by December 2010.

In its new plan, the agency plans to fund new research on the organism.