Almost two-thirds of chicken on sale in the UK carries the bacteria responsible for the most common kind of food poisoning, according to a new study.

The Food Standards Agency said the campylobacter bug was present in 65% of the chicken samples it tested. Salmonella found was in 6% of samples.

Campylobacter is the most common bacterial cause of food poisoning, responsible for around 55,000 cases in the UK every year.

“The continuing low levels of salmonella are encouraging but it is disappointing that levels of campylobacter remain high,” said FSA food safety director Andrew Wadge.

“It is obvious more needs to be done to get these levels down and we need to continue working with poultry producers and retailers to make this happen. Other countries, like New Zealand and Denmark, have managed to do so [and] we need to emulate that progress in the UK.”

The UK-wide survey of fresh chicken at retail was carried out between May 2007 and September 2008, with 3,274 samples tested for the presence of campylobacter and salmonella.