Supermarkets in the United Kingdom have reported their Campylobacter in chicken results for late 2022.

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

Data from the retailers covers October to December 2022 on high findings of Campylobacter in fresh, shop-bought, UK-produced chickens.

Results at Waitrose, Morrisons and Lidl went up while Marks and Spencer, Aldi, Asda, and Sainsbury’s recorded lower levels of contamination than the previous quarter. Figures for Co-op stayed the same.

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.

Tesco has stopped publishing data as it has changed the way it monitors the pathogen in chicken so findings are not comparable with other retailers.

Results by retailer

Marks and Spencer had 1 percent in the maximum category in October, November and December from 376 chickens sampled. This compares to 6 percent in July, 2 percent in August and none in September.

Morrisons had about 2 percent of chickens at the top contaminated level compared to nearly 0.9 percent in the third quarter of 2022.

Lidl recorded almost 3 percent of birds in the highest category, which is up from 2 percent in the past quarter.

Waitrose and Partners had 2.1 percent testing positive for Campylobacter at levels above 1,000 CFU/g compared to 2 percent in the previous quarter.

Co-op results for the fifth quarter running showed no chickens tested were contaminated at levels greater than 1,000 CFU/g.

Aldi’s results improved with 1.7 percent of chickens sampled in the above 1,000 CFU/g category compared to 3.3 percent in the past quarter.

Asda reported that no chickens were above 1,000 CFU/g in the final quarter of 2022 compared to 0.6 in the previous three months. The total in 2022 was 1.1 percent above 1,000 CFU/g, which is down from 1.7 percent in 2021.

Sainsbury’s Campylobacter results for Q4 2022 showed 1 percent of chickens had levels above 1,000 CFU/g compared to 2 percent in the third quarter.

Campylobacter illnesses

Meanwhile, Campylobacter cases in England increased from 56,278 in 2018 to 56,439 in 2019, according to data published recently by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Slightly more than half of laboratory confirmed cases were male and the 50 to 59-year-old age group was the most affected.

In 2019, the number of lab reports per month was higher than the median of the previous five years for all months apart from January and February. The peak in lab reporting occurred in July. The majority of samples were Campylobacter jejuni followed by Campylobacter coli. 

Two outbreaks were recorded. One affected 22 people and the other sickened 15. The source was unknown for the first incident but the second was linked to chicken liver pâté at a restaurant, café, pub, hotel or catering service.

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