Statistics release cancelled
The retail survey was designed to test for Campylobacter levels by measuring the amount of the bug on the neck skin of each sampled chicken – this is because this is generally the most contaminated part of the bird. However, 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. However, it has begun to raise concerns in terms of presenting meaningful statistics, with a straightforward interpretation. The more variable amounts of neck skin, now found on chickens, means that the sampling protocol has diminished value as a basis for meaningful comparisons of changes over time, or between different retailers.
The FSA has therefore decided to suspend the survey for the time being while we look again at what sort of testing we might do to provide clear information on the progress being made by retailers to tackle Campylobacter. We are considering a number of options for amending our testing protocol, so as to provide a more consistent indication of the levels of the bug. We hope to be able to recommence our sampling in the summer, subject to successful feasibility testing and peer review.
The survey was suspended at the end of March 2016. Results up to this point will be reported on 26 May. The report will expand on the reasons why the survey has been suspended and will provide any necessary caveats for the results that are published.