a year of testing store-bought chicken in the United Kingdom for Campylobacter, the Food Standards Agency there has published the results — and they’re pretty dismal. More than 4,000 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens and packaging were collected between February 2014 and February 2015, and 73 percent of the chickens tested positive for the presence of Campylobacter. Nineteen percent of chickens tested above the highest category of contamination levels (more than 1,000 colony-forming units per gram), while 7 percent of packages also tested positive for Campylobacter. Campylobacter is a foodborne bacteria largely associated with chicken which causes diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping. It’s also the biggest cause of food poisoning in the U.K. In breaking down contamination rates by retailer, FSA found that none had met the target for reducing Campylobacter. Asda had the highest rate of Campylobacter contamination at 80 percent of chicken samples, as well as the most samples (30 percent) with more than 1,000 colony-forming units per gram. Tesco was the only main retailer with a lower rate of chicken contamination at the highest level compared to the industry average.

Retailer Skin samples positive for Campylobacter Skin samples with high level Campylobacter Pack samples positive for Campylobacter
Asda 80.4% 29.7% 12.4%
Co-op 78.1% 19.1% 4.9%
M&S 67.1% 17.4% 2.9%
Morrisons 75.8% 22.0% 11.2%
Sainsbury’s 69.7% 16.4% 4.9%
Tesco 66.5% 12.8% 4.0%
Waitrose 73.8% 18.4% 9.7%
Others 76.8% 23.9% 6.7%
Total 72.8% 19.4% 6.7%

  Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, the Co-op and Waitrose each published case studies to show the results of their recently implemented campylobacter reduction plans. According to FSA, the retailers’ data “show significant decreases in the incidence of campylobacter on their raw whole chickens.” FSA said that its full analysis of the survey results, including the publication of the raw data and the full year results for smaller supermarkets and shops, will be published later in the summer. The agency plans to start a new survey this summer to measure the impact of the interventions now being introduced by industry.