For the past year, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has been running a survey to measure the amount of Campylobacter in chickens for sale in local grocery stores. Due to changes in how chickens are processed, the agency has now announced that it will suspend testing for the time being.

Traditionally, the FSA’s Campylobacter testing measured levels of the bacteria on the chicken’s neck skin. In general, this is usually the most contaminated part of the bird. However, food processors are increasingly removing the neck skin before the chickens make it to retailers. While this growing practice does decrease the risk of food poisoning for consumers, it poses a new challenge for the FSA’s survey, testing methods and the findings.

Now, the FSA is having trouble fairly comparing the results of Campylobacter contamination from retailer to retailer, due to varying levels of neck skin on their chickens. It has become a challenge to provide accurate comparisons with previous quarterly results--back when they tested chickens with the full neck skins in tact.

As a result, the FSA has decided to suspend the survey--at least temporarily--while they figure out a better way to test and yield accurate, comparable results. The agency hopes to reinstate testing this summer. In the meantime, the FSA does encourage the industry to conduct their own testing based on standards prescribed and maintained by the agency.

Third quarter results of the survey will be published next month, but considering the current challenges, the agency will only provide an overall figure for the amount of Campylobacter instances found. No breakdown of figures by retailer will be provided this time. Due to the suspending of the testing, fourth quarter results will not be published.

Sign up for Food Safety Magazine's bi-weekly emails!