Tesco campylobacter recall puts cooked chicken in the spotlight

Tesco withdrew batches of its Chicken, Broccoli, Almond & Cashew Nut Salad, among other suspected products

Tesco is investigating what is believed to be the first recorded presence of campylobacter in cooked poultry in the UK after recalling batches of two chilled chicken salad bowl lines this week.

The retailer withdrew batches of its 160g Chicken Salad and 315g Chicken, Broccoli, Almond & Cashew Nut Salad (with use-by dates of 12 and 13 July), after its supplier detected campylobacter in “a small number of products”.

Tesco stressed the recall was “precautionary” and said it had launched a “thorough investigation to fully understand what has happened”, but declined to comment on the potential source of the bug.

“We continue to work hard with our supplier partners to ensure that we maintain the highest standards and meet all industry requirements,” said a spokeswoman.

An FSA spokeswoman added investigations were “ongoing to establish the source of contamination”, and stressed it was currently unable to confirm the “cooked chicken was the contaminated ingredient”.

If the cooked chicken was the source, it could point to a “failure” in the production process, experts suggested - such as cross-contamination of the cooked chicken with other ingredients, or the undercooking of the chicken ingredient.

The incident might also point to a need for a shift in the way the bug was tackled, said Professor Chris Elliott, director of the Institute for Global Food Security. “The FSA has previously focused on instances of campylobacter in fresh chicken and in retail, but I think it is probably not the biggest issue that causes many cases of campylobacter-related food poisoning.

“I’ve always thought many cases are caused by poor practice in cafés and restaurants,” he said. “This recall shows that the focal point now has to include the foodservice and ready meal sectors.”

British Poultry Council CEO Richard Griffiths was “very surprised” to see campylobacter found in ready to eat products, noting that cooked chicken should be free of the bug. “That obviously shouldn’t happen at all. I’m a little bit disappointed that somewhere a processor has failed, but on a positive note the monitoring systems are working to pick this up,” he said.