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M&S chicken most likely to contain food poison bug

By Josie Clarke

A Marks & Spencer fresh chicken has ranked as the most likely among those of the UK's main supermarkets to be contaminated with high levels of food poisoning bugs.

The latest figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) show 9.5% of samples from M&S tested positive for campylobacter bacteria at more than 1,000 "colony forming units" per gram of skin.

The ongoing survey found Sainsbury's ranked the best of the major nine retailers, with 2.6% of its chickens testing positive for the bug at the highest level.

A total of 1,492 fresh, shop-bought whole chickens were tested between August and December 2016.

Lidl ranked second from the bottom of the table at 6.9%, followed by Aldi (6.7%), Co-op (6.1%), Asda (6%), Tesco (5.7%) and Waitrose (5.2%).

Campylobacter is the leading cause of food poisoning in the UK and makes 280,000 people ill each year. However, the FSA said the figures showed campylobacter levels continued to decline, and there had been a 17% decline in the number of laboratory reports of human cases of campylobacter in 2016.

Overall, 7% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination, down from 12% for the same period in 2015 and 20% in 2014. Among the nine retailers with the highest market share, 5% of chickens tested positive for the bacteria within the highest band of contamination.

A spokeswoman for retail giant M&S said: "We've taken action over the past two years and now have significantly more chickens that are free of campylobacter. We're ahead of the FSA target and will continue to invest to tackle this industry-wide issue."

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