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Acting on Campylobacter

Strategy For Safe Chicken

What is campylobacter?

Campylobacter is a type of naturally occurring bacteria found in the gut of most animals, including cattle, pigs and poultry, where it lives harmlessly. Campylobacter is not naturally present in humans and can cause illness if ingested.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

Can campylobacter be destroyed?

Campylobacter is killed by thorough cooking. Good food hygiene controls during food preparation are vital, as it can be spread to surfaces and other food, especially when handling raw and ready to eat foods at the same time. Iceland supports Food Standards Agency [FSA] advice to:

  1. Store raw chilled poultry separately from other food, covered, chilled and at the bottom of the fridge.
  2. Wash everything that’s come into contact with raw chicken properly in hot soapy water, from your hands to chopping boards and utensils.
  3. Do not wash raw poultry; you can splash germs up to a metre either side of the sink. Also take care not to spread bacteria when handling discarded packing.
  4. Check chicken is thoroughly cooked, no pink colour remains and the juices run clear.

What has Iceland done to reduce campylobacter?

Campylobacter reduction efforts happen at four stages in the food chain: poultry farms, poultry suppliers, retailers and butchers and in the kitchen. Iceland’s own action is summed up in this 10 Point Reduction Plan:

  1. Iceland continues to promote the benefit of frozen chickens offering a reduced risk of campylobacter.
  2. The Iceland “cook from frozen” poultry range offers a convenient option for customers, with no direct product handling, thus reducing food safety risks for customers.
  3. Iceland has introduced leak-proof packaging. This is acknowledged by the FSA as being highly effective in preventing the leakage of chicken juices during transport and storage.
  4. Iceland own label chicken labels state “do not wash poultry” in line with official FSA messages. Iceland has also made cooking instructions clearer for customers on chilled whole birds.
  5. Iceland has introduced “cook in the bag” chilled whole birds so customers can choose not to have to handle the chicken directly.
  6. Iceland has reduced its number of chilled whole bird suppliers to enable us to better work with our suppliers to reduce levels of campylobacter.
  7. Iceland has required its suppliers to remove the neck skin from whole birds as the FSA has confirmed that this is one of the most contaminated parts of the bird (ref 3).
  8. Iceland has appointed an independent veterinary consultant to work with Iceland and its chilled poultry suppliers to continue to review campylobacter reduction controls.
  9. Iceland continues to participate in the FSA Food Safety Week, incorporating general food safety advice for customers, via the Website and Social Media, and supports the work of FSA and FSAI
  10. Working with the Food Standards Agency and The Food Safety Authority of Ireland, sharing our campylobacter reduction initiatives

These initiatives come on the back of Iceland’s long-standing commitment to driving down levels of campylobacter contamination, as evidenced in the company’s 2010-2013 co-funding of a Liverpool University campylobacter research project.

The Power of Frozen

A paper from the FSA confirmed that frozen is less risk than chilled. “The FSA retail survey found only 14% of frozen samples were campylobacter positive, and where they were enumerated the counts were below 150 cfu/g, suggesting that the public health risk from frozen chicken is much lower than from chilled.” (ref 2)

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported “More than 90% risk reduction can be obtained by freezing carcasses for 2-3 weeks.” (ref 4)

2015 Test Results

Since January 2015 Iceland has commissioned an independent laboratory to test over 200 frozen Iceland products and all have been negative for levels of campylobacter. Iceland has chosen to test various frozen whole birds and portions, from various countries of origin unlike the FSA survey that was limited to chilled UK whole birds.

Iceland specification requires a target of “absence in 25g” for campylobacter in poultry. Iceland Own Label poultry suppliers must routinely test products to ensure compliance with this specification.

Iceland continues to commission independent microbiological testing of all Iceland Own Label products, following a new product launch and then in accordance with a regular sampling plan. This includes campylobacter presence testing.

Any levels of campylobacter found have been sent to our suppliers to investigation, trending and action. It is important to reiterate that if there is any campylobacter present, this will be destroyed by thorough cooking.


  3. Food Standards Agency “A UK wide Microbiological Survey of campylobacter contamination in fresh whole chilled chickens at retail sale”
  4. “Scientific Opinion on campylobacter in broiler meat production: control options and performance objectives and/or targets at different stages of the food chain1 EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)2, 3.” European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy

For more information on the Food Standards Agency 2015 Food Safety Campaign visit

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