9 million chicken packs are sold with dangerous bacteria

Two of the UK’s leading food safety experts have advised supermarket shoppers to wash their hands before eating or preparing snacks after buying raw chicken – as the plastic casing could be covered in a dangerous dose of deadly bacteria.

According to a Daily Telegraph investigation, 9 million raw chickens are sold with “bug-covered” packs a year, with 1 in every 100 raw chickens bought at Britain’s biggest supermarkets containing a potentially infectious level of Campylobacter – a type of bacteria, which causes food poisoning.

The government’s Public Health England claims Campylobacter is the country’s leading cause of food poisoning, with 485,000 cases being recorded last year.

The FSA had previously said that the risk of people falling ill due to the bacteria on chicken casing is “extremely unlikely”, but now food safety experts are warning people not to eat snacks with their bare hands after handling packs of raw chicken.

Dr Lisa Ackerley – an independent food hygiene expert – told the Daily Telegraph: “I strongly suspect that many food poisoning cases are from cross contamination, which may involve the spread of bacteria from contaminated hands to mouth as well as via contaminated food… For example people quite often get hungry in the supermarket and may buy snacks such as crisps to eat on the way home. But if they’ve picked up chicken with bacteria on the outside packaging and licked their fingers they could consume enough bacteria to become ill.”

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Should we worry?

In a word: no. The Centre for Food Policy’s Professor Tim Lang added: “This is an extremely unwise position for the FSA to be taking. Reducing cross contamination should be their number one concern. No consumer expects to become ill as a result of touching plastic packaging while shopping. At the least shoppers should be washing their hands after picking up chicken, but how far do you go? Should they be provided with rubber gloves as well?”

The FSA have since responded, maintaining that the risk of getting food poisoning is still “extremely low”, saying: “We have never said that the only risk is from packs with >1000cfu/swab [the highest level of bacteria]. We have said that these present the greatest risk from the packaging, although we maintain that the overall risk is extremely low.”

It is always advised to wash hands and equipment thoroughly when cooking and handling raw chicken.

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source: Daily Telegraph