Sainsbury’s has recorded the worst Campylobacter in chicken results for the final three months of 2020 closely followed by Tesco.

Figures come from the top nine retailers in the United Kingdom publishing the latest quarter of testing findings.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) threshold is 7 percent of birds with more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) of Campylobacter.

Sainsbury’s reported 7 percent of chickens sampled were above 1,000 CFU/g in the fourth quarter of 2020 (4Q), compared to 2 percent in 3Q, slightly more than 4 percent in 2Q and about 3 percent in 1Q 2020.

Higher levels for Tesco; lower for Asda
Tesco data from October to December 2020, including 299 samples, showed 6 percent had the highest level of Campylobacter contamination. This is up from 2 percent in July to September and 3 percent in April to June but down from 9 percent in January to March 2020.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning in the UK and the dose needed to make people sick can be as low as a few hundred cells.

The FSA used to publish data from these top food retailers on Campylobacter in fresh shop-bought UK-produced chickens but stopped after the second quarter of 2019.

Asda reported 1.8 percent tested positive for the highest level of contamination in the latest quarter. Figures for the first quarter of 2020 showed 9.2 percent above the top level of contamination while it was 4.1 percent in 2Q and 7.7 percent in 3Q. In all of 2020, 5 percent of birds were above 1,000 cfu/g.

Lidl recorded about 2.5 percent of birds in the top contamination category which is down from 4 percent in 3Q, above 6 percent in 2Q and 5.5 percent in 1Q of 2020.

Some retailers report no samples in top category
Aldi’s results for 4Q were the same as 2Q when no chickens were in the above 1,000 cfu/g category. In the third quarter, 0.6 percent of birds were in this bracket and the figure was 2.8 percent in the first three months of this past year.

Co-op results for the latest quarter show the same figure as the period before with 0.9 percent of chickens sampled having contamination at levels greater than 1,000 cfu/g. This is up from zero in 2Q but down from 1.8 percent in 1Q of 2020.

A total of 0.8 percent of Morrisons chickens had the highest level of contamination from 125 birds tested. For the full year, 1.3 percent of birds were above this amount.

For Marks and Spencer chickens, 2 percent were in the maximum category in October, 3 percent in November and 2 percent in December. In the whole year, 3 percent of birds were contaminated above 1,000 cfu/g.

Waitrose levels for the quarter fell back to zero, as in 1Q and 2Q, from 1 percent of samples above 1,000 cfu/g in 3Q.

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