28 Nov 2014

Raw data lays bare supermarket chicken problem

It’s not a great day for Asda. Of all Britain’s big supermarkets their fresh chickens were found by the Food Safety Agency (FSA) to be the most likely to be contaminated with campylobacter – an increasingly common cause of food poisoning.

But before the customers of more pricey supermarkets breathe a sigh of smug relief not that Waitrose, M&S and Sainsbury’s did little better.

And the store many of them love to hate, Tesco, came out best.

In fact the survey found that all supermarkets had unacceptable levels of campylobacter on their fresh chickens. A clear explanation for why incidents of food poisoning from the bug are on the increase. Much to the irritation of the big players, their new competitors Aldi and Lidl were not included in this latest survey.

There are nearly 300,000 cases of campylobacter food poisoning each year.

That’s bad enough for a bug that can keep someone off work for a week or two on average. But in more than 1,000 cases it can cause life-changing paralysis due to a complication called Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome.

Retailers and suppliers say they are not putting profits before consumer safety, arguing the bug is naturally occurring in chickens’ guts and that it would be impossible to completely eradicate. And adding that they’re investing millions in new technologies to reduce the incidence of the bug.

In the meantime the FSA advise the best way to avoid campylobacter is to cook chicken well and clean hands afterwards as this destroys the bug. Washing chicken is not recommended – it is a very effective way of spreading the bug around the kitchen.

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2 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Tom,

    So Edwina Currie was right twenty six years ago…………?
    :-)

  2. carol mcmanus says:

    surely FSA much better way to avoid campylobacter is to avoid eating lovely sentient chickens at all.happily not done so for nearly 40 years

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