The percentage of chickens at Tesco and Asda testing positive for Campylobacter at the top level of contamination in the second quarter of 2020 has fallen below the FSA target.

The two supermarkets had recorded levels above the Food Standards Agency (FSA) threshold of 7 percent of birds with more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) of Campylobacter in the first quarter of this year.

Tesco reported 9 percent of 132 samples in 1Q 2020 had the highest level of Campylobacter contamination while Asda recorded 9.2 percent.

The figures for 2Q from April to June show Tesco had 3 percent and Asda had 3.6 percent above the top level of contamination.

Results from other retailers
Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the United Kingdom and the infectious dose can be as low as a few hundred cells.

FSA used to compile figures from the top food retailers on Campylobacter results for fresh shop-bought UK-produced chickens but stopped doing this after the second quarter of 2019.

Lidl recorded above 6 percent of birds in the highest contamination category in 2Q 2020 compared to 5.5 percent in the first three months of the year.

Grocery chain Sainsbury’s reported slightly more than 4 percent of chickens sampled were above the 1,000 CFU/g category from April to June this year compared to around 3 percent in the past quarter.

A total of 0.85 percent of chickens from Morrisons had higher levels of contamination from a sample of 118 chickens tested. This is down from 2.7 percent in 1Q 2020.

Findings of no contamination at the highest level
Based on a sample of 343 Marks and Spencer chickens, none were above 1,000 CFU/g in April, 5 percent in May, and 3 percent in June. In the first quarter of 2020, from 333 samples, 6 percent were above 1,000 CFU/g in January, 3 percent in February, and 1 percent in March.

Results for April to June for Aldi show that no chickens were in the above 1,000 CFU/g category but due to COVID-19 restrictions, no birds were tested in April. This is down from 2.8 percent in 1Q 2020.

Co-op results for the second quarter of this year also showed zero chickens sampled had contamination at levels greater than 1,000 CFU/g. This is down from 1.8 percent in 1Q 2020.

The results of the Waitrose and Partners survey for the second quarter of 2020, shows zero chickens tested positive for levels of Campylobacter more than 1,000 CFU/g over the period.

A Waitrose and Partners spokesperson said the key to the good results was the hard work of farmers and suppliers combined with data gathering and analysis, surveying chicken at the factory, and on supermarket shelves.

“Our testing regime is rigorous and because we know that the prevalence of Campylobacter is reduced over a product’s shelf life, we have ensured our sampling is random and have adhered throughout the survey to the FSA testing protocol,” said the spokesperson.

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