Which supermarket chicken is most likely to give you food poisoning?

Raw chicken
Raw chicken

Supermarkets are at last winning the war against the food poisoning bug campylobacter in chickens - but some are doing much better than others.

New figures from the Food Standards Agency show a 17% fall in the number of human cases last year. And when individual supermarket chickens were checked for the deadly bug, 55.8% tested positive, with only 7% showing the highest level of contamination - down from 12% in 2015 and 20% the year before.

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However, there's a lot of variation between individual supermarkets. And, perhaps surprisingly, upmarket Marks & Spencer is the worst offender. Nearly one in ten of its chickens tested positive at the highest level, compared with just 2.6% of Sainsbury's chickens.

Smaller retailers - including Iceland, convenience stores and independent butchers - were worst of all, averaging 19.7%.

"We commend the efforts of the larger retailers and the major processing plants who supply them, all of which have shown significant improvement and many have achieved the target we set to reduce the highest levels of campylobacter. They have invested a lot of effort and money into interventions to tackle the problem," says FSA chairman Heather Hancock.

"But there is more to be done and our focus now is on encouraging the smaller retailers and processors, who generally haven't met target levels, to follow the lead of the major players and we are considering how we can best help them and monitor their progress."

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The FSA says chicken is safe, as long as consumers follow good kitchen practice.

Cover and chill raw chicken, it says, and store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge so juices cannot drip on to other foods.

Don't wash it, as cooking will kill any bacteria, while washing chicken can spread germs by splashing. You should, though, wash hands and utensils thoroughly.

Finally, always make sure your chicken is steaming hot all the way through by cutting into the thickest part of the meat: it shouldn't be pink and the juices should run clear.

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Retailer figures for positive samples and high levels of campylobacter

Aldi: 60.0% (6.7% high)
Asda: 55.3% (6.0% high)
Co-op: 46.6% (6.1% high)
Lidl: 56.6% (6.9% high)
M&S: 71.6% (9.5% high)
Morrisons: 53.6% (3.3% high)
Sainsbury's: 48.7% (2.6% high)
Tesco: 47.2% (5.7% high)
Waitrose: 44.4% (5.2% high)
Others: 82.5% (19.7% high)
All: 55.8% (7.0% high)