Poultry bosses have hailed the UK's top results in a Europe-wide survey of salmonella levels in broiler hens.

In tests on every commercial British holding last year, only one was infected with either of the two most common forms of salmonella bacterium: S. Enteritidis and S. Typhimurium.

The European Food Standards Agency survey found nearly 25% of EU broiler flocks had at least one case of salmonella. Spain and Portugal posted results above 30% for the two most common types of salmonella. And nearly two-thirds of Polish chicken farms are infected with the disease, the EFSA said.

Leaders of the British poultry industry were

quick to pick up on the dangers of imported chicken.

"Imports present a risk," said Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council. "There's been a big increase in imports of cheap, fresh poultry meat from countries like Poland, which was the source of some 18,000 tonnes last year."

Charles Bourns, chair of the NFU's poultry board, said it was more proof that shoppers should buy British chicken. "This is just another reason to look for the Red Tractor label on packs of chicken, which guarantees the product is produced in the UK to high farm assurance standards," he said.

In the meantime, Dr Judith Hilton, head of microbiological Safety at the FSA, welcomed the results, but called for more effort from farmers.

"These findings show how effective control measures taken by industry in the UK have been.

"However, salmonella has not been entirely eliminated from broiler flocks and we need to continue to work hard to minimise salmonella and campylobacter levels."

The FSA urged people to handle raw poultry with care and cook it properly to make it safe to eat.