On the FSA campylobacter retail survey
The FSA has conducted a year-long survey to measure the amount of campylobacter on chickens bought from shops and supermarkets.
Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA said: “Tackling campylobacter remains our number one priority. The ultimate test to show whether our campaign is working is to see whether fewer people get ill. That’s why we want to see 100,000 fewer cases of campylobacter each year from the end of March 2017. So there’s no let up for industry: we want to see continuing efforts to reduce this bug on our chickens”.
The way the FSA has conducted the testing for campylobacter levels has been to measure the amount of the bug on the neck skin of the chicken – this is because this is generally the most contaminated part of the bird. However the FSA note that a growing number of processors are removing the neck skin before the birds are put on the supermarket shelves. This is good news for the consumer because it reduces the amount of campylobacter on the bird, but cause a problem with the FSA’s analyses.  Given that chicken samples now contain varying amounts of neck skin, it makes it difficult for the FSA to compare fairly one retailer with another and to give accurate comparisons with previous quarterly results.  The FSA has therefore decided to suspend the survey for the time being while they look again at what sort of testing they might do to provide clear information on the progress being made by retailers to tackle campylobacter.
In the longer-term, they will be asking industry to conduct their own testing and to publish their results to an agreed set of standards prescribed and maintained by them. The FSA will publish the results of the third quarter of this survey on May 26 2016. As with previous quarters, publication of the data follows Office of National Statistics rules.  However, because of the issues outlined above, they will simply be giving an overall figure for the amount of campylobacter on chicken and will not this time be breaking the figures down by retailer. Since sampling has been suspended, the final quarter set of results within this survey will not be published.

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