Six in 10 consumers concerned at high levels of campylobacter in chicken

Ahead of today’s publication of data on campylobacter by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), a new survey from Which? reveals that consumers are concerned about levels of the bug in chicken sold at supermarkets, with the majority saying they think levels are too high.

Later today the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will, for the first time, name and shame seven of the biggest supermarkets based on the testing results for campylobacter.

An FSA survey from last August showed around six in ten fresh chicken samples they tested were contaminated with campylobacter. In new research from Which?, as part of our Make Chicken Safe campaign, we found six in ten consumers (61%) expressed concern about these high levels, with three-quarters (77%) saying they thought they were too high.  More than half (55%) thought that there wasn’t enough information available regarding campylobacter levels in chicken.

Campylobacter bacteria is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, with the majority of cases coming from contaminated poultry.  Yet, our new survey found only a third of people (33%) had heard of campylobacter, compared to 94% being aware of salmonella and 92% of E. coli.

With nearly nine in ten people (86%) saying they assume the food they buy from supermarkets won’t make them ill and three-quarters of people (76%) trusting that fresh chicken supermarkets stock is safe to eat, our Make Chicken Safe campaign is calling for supermarkets, the Food Standards Agency and the chicken processing industry to take action by:

1) Immediately setting out the action they will individually and collectively take to bring campylobacter levels under control;

2) Making public the results of campylobacter testing.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Our research clearly shows that the majority of people are now concerned about the high levels of this potentially deadly bug in their supermarket chicken. By releasing information about which supermarkets are most affected, the Food Standards Agency will at once put more public pressure on the poor performers to improve and give consumers better information about campylobacter levels.

“There can be no shirking responsibility – everyone involved in producing and selling chickens must act now and tell consumers what they’re doing to make sure the chicken we eat is safe.”

Notes to editors:

1.   Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2,101 UK adults online between 21st and 23rd November 2014. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

2.   We have case-studies available to talk about their experiences of contracting campylobacter please contact John Cottrill for further details on 020 7770 7615.

3.   We are expecting the Food Standards Agency’s latest campylobacter research to be released later today (Thursday 27th November). This will include results from independent retailers as well as supermarkets.

4.   In a Food Standards Agency survey of fresh chicken on retail sale in the UK, published last August, campylobacter was present in 59% of the samples tested.

5.   Campylobacter is considered to be responsible for more than 280,000 cases of food poisoning each year and around 100 deaths a year are linked to the bacteria.

6.   For more details or to sign up to our campaign, please click here:

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