Multiple retailers have set out plans to reduce the levels of campylobacter found in its chickens.
This follows a year-long Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey of 4,000 chickens from across the UK in which 73% of chickens were found to have presence of campylobacter and 19% had highest level traces of the bug.
Although some retailers have managed to cut out incidents of campylobacter, the high overall levels mean there is more work to be done and the FSA will be carrying out a second year-long survey which will include Aldi and Lidl.
The Co-operative, which had 78.1% of its chickens test positive, the second-highest of those surveyed, has pledged to tackle campylobacter with a new set of measures. From 1 July, it will be ending the thinning process at its supplier farms and introducing double scalding and blast surface chilling which subjects the chickens to extreme temperatures.
Ciara Gorst, senior agricultural manager, The Co-operative Food, said: “Tackling campylobacter is an absolute priority for our business and we are working hard to reduce its levels.
“We have a comprehensive action plan and became the first retailer to roll-out roast-in-bag packaging for all our whole chickens and, today, we have announced the introduction of additional new measures on our farms.”
Morrison’s fared slightly better in the tests, with 75.8% testing positive. It has also promised to make changes including re-evaluating suppliers. A spokesperson said: “We take food safety extremely seriously and are committed to reducing any risk to customers. We have looked at what really helps reduce campylobacter and we have made some significant changes including bringing in a new supplier.
“The results of our reduction programme are extremely encouraging but we are not complacent. There is still work to do. We will continue to work closely with the FSA and our suppliers to reduce the presence of campylobacter even further.”
Waitrose, which saw 73.8% of its chickens test positive, said work with its dedicated supplier Moy Park had yielded positive results. Heather Jenkins, Waitrose director of agriculture and meat, fish and dairy buying said: “We know from our research that there is no ‘silver bullet’ for campylobacter and the key to significant reduction lies in a range of actions at farm and process level. It is also important that we all continue to help customers understand the importance of the safe handling of raw poultry in tackling this bug.”
The Waitrose/Moy Park campylobacter action plan included initiatives such as: sophisticated PCR testing and analysis; enhanced biosecurity including double barrier access controls; farmer incentives; unique flock management systems; effective washing techniques and optimised factory procedures.
Sainsbury’s head of food safety Alec Kyriakides outlined the supermarket’s Safe Chicken Strategy. The multiple retail giant had 69.7% of its chickens test positive. It is contemplating the use of rapid surface chilling, hot washing and the introduction of safer packaging that doesn’t leak.