The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have published the last set of results from its third survey of campylobacter contamination in fresh shop bought UK-produced chickens.

The full year’s result show that on average, across the entire market, 6.5% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination which is down from 19.7% in 2014/15 when the survey began.

The full year’s results – from August 2016 to July 2017 – based on a total of 3,980 whole fresh chickens sampled at retail, show:

• The figure for high-level campylobacter prevalence (more than 1,000 colony forming units (cfu) per gram) among the top nine retailers (based on market share) was 5.6%.

• The ‘Others’ group, consisting of smaller retailers and butchers, had a significantly higher prevalence at 17.1% compared to the top nine retailers.

• The retailers with significantly lower prevalence than the average among all retailers were Morrisons (2.9%), Tesco (4.2%) and Waitrose (2.7%).

• There was a significant fall in the percentage of chickens positive for campylobacter at any level down from 73.2% in 2014/15 to 54% in 2016/17.

• In the last period of the third annual survey, April – July 2017, based on a total of 1,437 chicken samples 5.9% of chickens had high levels of campylobacter (over 1,000 cfu per gram) down from 20.1% for the same period in 2014.

In September, the FSA announced that the top nine retailers will now publish their own campylobacter results on their consumer websites and no longer be included in the FSA’s annual survey. The sampling and analyses they carry out will be in accordance with robust protocols laid down by the FSA, so all results will still be comparable. This will allow FSA and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) to continue to monitor their progress and focus future surveys on smaller retailers, independent traders and market stalls, as these are more likely to be supplied by the smaller processors which are continuing to show higher levels of contamination.

Foodborne campylobacter is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK and FSS research show the majority of campylobacter infections are associated with chicken. The FSA has been testing chickens for campylobacter and publishing the results since February 2014 as part of its campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem.

Read the report here.