A recent survey of fresh, shop-bought chickens in the U.K. has shown that 59 percent of the birds tested positive for the presence of Campylobacter, according to the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency (FSA). The survey began in February and will continue through February, 2015, with results being released quarterly.

Campylobacter, the most common form of food poisoning in the U.K., affects an estimated 280,000 people a year, according to the FSA. However, the agency stressed that Campylobacter can be killed when chicken is thoroughly cooked.

"This survey is an important part of the work we are doing to tackle Campylobacter," said Catherine Brown, FSA chief executive. “It will give us a clearer picture of the prevalence of Campylobacter on raw poultry sold at retail and help us measure the impact of interventions introduced by producers, processers, and retailers to reduce contamination.

"The chicken supply chain is looking at how interventions such as improved biosecurity on farms, rapid surface chilling, and anti-microbial washes can help reduce Campylobacter. So when they take action and invest in interventions designed to make a difference, these survey figures will enable us to see if they really do make an impact."


Progress made in poultry packaging

The survey pointed toward progress in safe poultry packaging, as it showed that in four percent of the samples, Campylobacter was identified on the outside of the packaging.

"The low levels of contamination found on packaging, shown in the results released today, potentially indicate the effectiveness of the leak-proof packaging for poultry introduced by most retailers, which helps to reduce risks of cross contamination in consumers’ kitchens," said Brown. "There is still a lot more to be done by all elements of the supply chain to ensure that consumers can be confident in the food they buy."

More details on retailers coming

Brown said the agency is looking at data that will robustly compare Campylobacter levels in poultry from different retailers. That information will be shared with consumers when sufficient data is obtained.