Mike the Psych's Blog

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Chickens, supermarkets, hygiene & food poisoning: You have been warned!

Naming and shaming does work, eventually!

The number of food-poisoning cases in the UK has dropped by 100,000 a year according to the Food Standards Agency.

After fighting off pressure from the industry not to name supermarkets which sold chicken contaminated with campylobacter the FSA got its act together in the consumers’ interest and published its first league of shame in November 2014.

Although it got off to a slow start with no apparent reduction (see post below) the number of highly contaminated chickens fell by 7% last year compared with 12% in 2015.

The publicity is apparently having an effect with stores using better hygiene methods including selling chickens in roast bags to reduce handling. Some invested in production line technology to reduce infections.

The worst supermarket between August and December last year was Marks & Spencer. It had 9.5% of its chickens with 1,000 campylobacter bacteria per gram, the FSA threshold which defines high contamination.

Sainsbury’s came out best with just 2.6% – a vast improvement on the previous year when it came bottom with 17.6%.

The FSA carries out their surveys quarterly, hence the slight variation in the figures shown in my posts which cover different periods. You can see the full FSA results here.

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I like chicken so have taken a personal interest in not being poisoned hence my posting on this topic over the last few years.

Previous post from May 30 2015: Supermarkets in UK still selling contaminated chickens

Despite attempts by the Food Standards Agency to “name and shame” supermarkets there has been no reduction in chickens heavily contaminated with campylobacter, a major source of food poisoning causing 100 deaths a year.

In fact the proportion of heavily contaminated chickens has increased overall from 17% to 21%.

Asda has the worst record with almost 30% of its chickens having more than1,000 campylobacter bacteria per gram. Asda said that one of its chicken suppliers, Faccenda Foods, would start blasting birds with steam and ultrasound which can reduce the bacteria by 80%. However this process will only apply to 30% of Asda’s chickens so you’re playing Russian roulette when you buy a chicken from Asda.

The FSA said Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, The Co-op, and Waitrose had produced plans to reduce the problem and shared some results with the agency – unlike Tesco and Sainsbury.

The results over the last year for heavily contaminated chicken were:

  • Asda 29.7%
  • Morrisons 22%
  • Co-op 19.1%
  • Waitrose 18.4%
  • M & S 17.4%
  • Sainsbury’s 16.4%
  • Tesco 12%

Increasingly chickens are being sold in bags which reduces the need to wash the chicken (which can spread the bacteria) or touch the skin with your hands.

No supermarket yet meets the standard agreed in 2010 of less than 10% of chickens having high levels of bacterial contamination.

Earlier post from 27 November 2014: Supermarket chickens. Not much to choose between them when it comes to infection

The FSA has now released the names of the supermarkets selling infected chickens together with the results of the tests for campylobacter.

It seems that 70% of all the chickens we buy at supermarkets are infected to some degree with this bug that causes food poisoning.

ASDA has come out the worst for contamination at the highest risk level with 28% of chickens affected

Marks & Spencer is next worst at the high level with 22% followed by Morrisons at 21%.

Tesco came out much better at 11%.

All the supermarkets had between approximately 2/3 and 3/4 of their chickens contaminated at all risk levels and no retailer has yet achieved the 10% maximum target for the highest risk level which they agreed to do in 2010 by the end of next year.

Campylobacter is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK, responsible for 280,000 cases a year, and around 100 deaths but is easily killed by thorough cooking.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued advice on how to store and cook chickens.

See also earlier post on this topic

Both these post previously posted on uLearn2bu

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Author: mikethepsych

He says he's a psychologist but aren't we all?

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