Food poisoning cases caused by bacteria carried on poultry packaging could be slashed following the invention of a campylobacter-zapping microbe.

British company Addmaster has come up with a silver-based additive - called Biomaster - which can be added into any material commonly used for food packaging. Bacteria including E.Coli and salmonella are killed by the additive, and tests have shown Biomaster reduces the growth of campylobacter by up to 99.99%.

The technology could be used in supermarkets as early as next year. Packaging giant Linpac, which supplies packaging to all the mults, is approaching retailers with Biomaster together with its poultry packing partners.

Alan Davey, director of innovation at Linpac, said Biomaster would add only “a few pennies” to the cost of the tray. “There is a risk here, and for a modest cost it can be reduced significantly. It will make food safer.”

Campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning in the UK, with around 371,000 cases in England and Wales in 2009 causing 15,000 hospital admissions and 88 deaths [FSA].

Campylobacter spreads easily through the supply chain if it is present, as it can be transferred from the packing plant to the outside of the tray, and from there to the supermarket shelf or a customer’s fridge.

“All these are potential risks. There aren’t thousands of people dying because of it, but enough are,” Davey said.

The company was targeting poultry as poultry meat poses the greatest threat of campylobacter infection, but the packaging could also be used for fish, he added.

Campylobacter forms naturally in a chicken’s gut. It does not cause disease in the gut, but can be released if the animal is stressed or during slaughter.