The British poultry industry has insisted its safety and hygiene standards are working, after a survey from consumer group Which? suggested campylobacter was present in just 18% of supermarket fresh chicken – far less than was found in a previous survey by the Food Standards Agency.

In an FSA survey from 2009, 65% of fresh chicken sold at retail tested positive for campylobacter, the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council said the new survey suggested a “big reduction” in campylobacter presence on chicken, which demonstrated the “effectiveness of the biosecurity measures” implemented by producers and processors.

However, Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said further improvements needed to be made.

“While the situation is improving, it is still unacceptable that one in five chickens we tested were found to be contaminated with campylobacter,” he said.

The consumer group also advised consumers to cook chicken thoroughly and adhere to sound hygiene practices when preparing and storing chicken – recommendations consistent with long-standing food safety guidelines from the FSA.

Bradnock said campylobacter were naturally occurring bacteria, and chicken was a safe and healthy product when properly cooked.