Woman shopping for chicken © Phanie Agency/Rex Shutterstock© Phanie Agency/Rex Shutterstock.jpg

Consumers do not understand the risks posed by campylobacter when buying chicken, according to research from the University of Manchester.

The study of 900 people found almost three-quarters still did not associate the pathogen – the most common cause of food poisoning – with the chickens they buy.

The report found they were much more understanding of a link between salmonella (75%) and E coli (50%) with chicken. Campylobacter came third, just ahead of listeria (21%) and botulism (15%).

See also: Campylobacter levels down 7% in shop-bought chicken

Lead author Professor Dan Rigby said: “Following the headlines one year ago about the amount of contaminated chicken on supermarket shelves, we surveyed 900 people and found that only 28% associated campylobacter with poultry.

“These findings show there is still a huge amount of work to be done to reduce the problem of campylobacter infection – a problem which costs the UK around £900m annually.”

Other key findings included:

  • One-third of people interviewed shortly after last year’s headlines said they could not recall the story
  • Less than half (40%) said they had changed their behaviour – most citing the way they handled or cooked chicken, with only 5% saying they would switch retailers
  • Just over a third correctly identified the retailer which had the highest contamination rate
  • Few consumers are making the link between “roast in the bag” chicken and campylobacter control

The report, which is part of the ongoing Enigma Project funded by a range of medical and bioscience research councils, was released to coincide with the publication of the latest Food Standards Agency survey of shop-bought chickens.

Steve Wearne, FSA food policy director, said he felt supermarkets and processors were beginning to better educate the public.

“I am pleased that we are starting to see retailers and processors being open with consumers about what they are doing to tackle the problems, and about the impact their interventions are having on the chickens they are selling,” he stressed.