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Consumers demand action on campylobacter

Consumers believe food businesses should go beyond mandatory targets for reducing the incidence of campylobacter on chickens to help lessen the risk of food poisoning.

Two thirds (66%) of consumers think the industry should continue to reduce incidences of campylobacter beyond the agreed current target of less than 10% of chickens at the most highly contaminated level, according to research from the Food Standards Agency.

Retailers should also be telling customers what proportion of chickens are at this highest level of contamination, according to 75% of those questioned.

The FSA’s campylobacter survey was started in 2014 and samples 4,000 fresh whole chilled chickens from all major UK retailers and independent shops every quarter.

The results have shown a reduction in the number of chickens that tested positive for the highest level of contamination, from 19% in December 2014 to 11% in February 2016; however consumers say they want businesses to go even further to tackle the bacteria, which is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

“It is good to see from our research that it is customers, and not just the FSA, demanding action and information from retailers. We have always said that consumer power will ultimately push industry action,” said Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA.

The FSA’s research also shows that over three quarters (76%) of people questioned want retailers to be more proactive in telling them what actions they are taking to reduce the campylobacter levels on the raw chicken they sell, while more than half (53%) of people said that they would start buying chicken from another retailer if their usual shop was found to sell more than the industry average ‘high risk’ chicken.