Marks and Spencer has again recorded the highest Campylobacter in chicken results in updated quarterly figures from the United Kingdom.

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. Marks and Spencer is the only retailer to publish data showing the percentage of chickens contaminated at 100 to 1,000 CFU/g and at under 100 CFU/g.

Contamination figures published by the retailer went down as the quarter went on. The latest data covers July to September 2021 for nine retailers on Campylobacter in fresh, shop-bought, UK-produced chickens.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) maximum level is 7 percent of birds with more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) of Campylobacter. Marks and Spencer results were also above this limit in May and June 2021.

Increases for certain shops
For this retailer, 13 percent of chickens were in the maximum category in July, 9 percent in August and 5 percent in September from 376 birds sampled. This compares to 5 percent above 1,000 CFU/g in April, 9 percent in May, and 9 percent in June based on the same number of samples from store shelves across the United Kingdom.

Tesco recorded 4 percent of 300 samples above 1,000 CFU/g in the third quarter of 2021 (3Q) compared to 3 percent in 2Q.

Aldi reported 6.9 percent of chickens sampled were in the above 1,000 CFU/g category compared to 4.2 percent in the past quarter.

Asda recorded 2.1 percent tested positive for the highest level of contamination in the latest quarter compared to 1.5 percent in the previous three months.

Morrisons had 1.8 percent of chickens at the top contaminated level from 112 birds tested compared to 0.8 of 120 samples in the second quarter of 2021.

Decline for some stores
Co-op results for the third quarter of 2021 show 0.9 percent of chickens sampled were contaminated at levels greater than 1,000 CFU/g. This is down from 2.7 percent in the past quarter.

Sainsbury’s had about 1 percent of chickens sampled above 1,000 CFU/g compared to 4 percent in the second quarter of 2021.

Lidl recorded about 0.5 percent of birds in the highest category which is reduced from 2 percent in the previous quarter.

Waitrose and Partners had no chickens testing positive for Campylobacter at levels above 1,000 CFU/g compared to 1 percent in the past quarter.

Levels reported by the nine retailers are lower than those found as part of a UK-wide survey at smaller retailers that tested more than 1,000 chickens from August 2019 to October 2020. This work found 12.8 percent of samples were above 1,000 CFU/g of chicken skin.

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