Recent research by the Food Standards agency has revealed that 580,000 people suffer from campylobacter food poisoning on average every year.
A significant proportion of the cases involve infected chicken, even though supermarkets and farmers have been pushed into improving standards of hygiene.
Up to 18,000 of those are affected seriously enough to require hospitalisation and 140 cases annually result in death.
The statistics show consecutive increases in the number of people affected for the last four years, despite the Food Standards Agency focusing on food poisoning above all other concerns.
The agency estimates up to two thirds of fresh chicken bought from supermarkets could be carrying the infection, although measures have been taken to control the spread on farms.
A strategy involving biosecurity and special hygiene measures has been in place since 2010 with the aim of reducing the number of contaminated chickens by half, but results have been disappointing.
The watchdog has also come down hard on supermarkets, threatening to force them to remove the birds from sale unless they can be guaranteed campylobacter free.
However apparently supermarkets have done little to comply so far other than introducing non-drip packaging.
The agency’s next step could involve washing the chickens with a lactic acid solution or using blast freezing techniques to try and eradicate the bug.
In the meantime, consumers should ensure all chicken products are carefully stored and thoroughly cooked (above 60 degrees celcius) before eating.
Also, buying your meat and poultry from smaller independent butchers shrinks the supply chain and usually local butchers can say with certainty where their animals were born, raised and slaughtered reducing the risk or need for acid baths and other such gruesome industrial practice.
Campylobacter joins norovirus, salmonella, e.coli and listeria as Britain’s most prevalent strains of food poisoning, between them costing the UK economy about 1.8 billion annually in lost working days.