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Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 02:07 GMT
Poultry bugs spark poisoning fears
Roast chicken
Free-range poultry "just as likely" to be contaminated
Up to one in five chicken products in major supermarkets are contaminated with bugs that can cause serious food poisoning, research has found.

Tests conducted by Which? magazine found chicken from Tesco was the least likely to be contaminated, while products from Sainsbury's and Safeway had the worst record.

Which? tested 316 samples of raw, fresh chickens and chicken pieces from five supermarkets: Asda, Safeway, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose.

Overall, salmonella or campylobacter, which can cause headaches and dizziness, were found in 16% of chickens and chicken pieces.


Too many consumers suffering from food poisoning are bearing the brunt of poor hygiene standards

Helen Parker, Which?
Tesco was the best of the supermarkets with only 6% of its chicken contaminated.

Sainsbury's (22%) and Safeway (21%) were the worst.

Free-range and organic poultry was just as likely to be contaminated as non-organic chickens.

Poultry blamed

Poultry has been blamed for almost a quarter of food poisoning outbreaks in recent years - more than any other type of food.

Helen Parker, Editor of Which?, said: "Tesco is clearly taking better precautions to try and prevent contaminated chickens being sold to consumers.

"Other supermarkets need to be more vigilant to prevent food poisoning incidences."

How to prevent food poisoning
Raw meat should be kept and prepared separately from other food and be stored at the bottom of the fridge
Meat should be cooked thoroughly until the juices run clear

She added: "Too many consumers suffering from food poisoning are bearing the brunt of poor hygiene standards.

"Campylobacter, especially, is all too often making an appearance at meal times."

Sainsbury's issued a statement which said that the Which? survey was mis-representative.

It said: "Our own continuous monitoring shows that the figures are much lower (for salmonella, less than 10%) based on a much larger scale survey and through our own surveillance programme.

"This is a widespread industry issue and all the major retailers use similar suppliers."

In a statement, Safeway said: "Safeway sets high standards for our suppliers, who run regular tests for salmonella and campylobacter, and in addition we perform regular tests ourselves using an independent, nationally accredited microbiology laboratory."

Undercover visit

Which? also paid an undercover visit to a slaughterhouse where found several places in the system where bugs could easily spread from one bird to another.

In the UK, the Food Standards Agency has promised to cut the current 'unacceptable' levels of food poisoning by a fifth by 2006.

The EU is reviewing food hygiene laws and has plans to set up a European Food Authority.

Which? is calling for a Europe-wide crackdown on food poisoning incidences.

Campylobacter is found in undercooked meat and poultry, untreated milk and water, milk and pets and can take up to ten days to develop and can last around a week.

There were 61,716 cases reported in 1999.

Salmonella is found in undercooked foods or foods contaminated by raw foods. and symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and high temperature.

It can take four days to develop and may last for three weeks. There were more than 20,000 cases reported in 1999.

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See also:

04 Feb 01 | Health
Fears over food poisoning
06 Sep 00 | UK
Food poisoning clampdown
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