ABSTRACT

Results from monitoring of the microbiological quality of 2,721 samples of ready-to-eat cooked chicken collected between 2013 to 2017 in England were reviewed: 70% of samples were from retail, catering, or manufacture and 30% were imported and collected at English ports. Samples were tested for a range of bacterial pathogens and indicator organisms. Six samples (<1%) had unsatisfactory levels of pathogens that were potentially injurious to health. Neither Salmonella nor Campylobacter were recovered from any samples. Two samples from catering settings contained either an unsatisfactory level of Bacillus cereus (5 × 106 CFU/g) or an unsatisfactory level of coagulase-positive staphylococci (1.6 × 104 CFU/g). Listeria monocytogenes was recovered from 36 samples (1 at manufacture, 26 at catering, and 9 at retail) and in 4 samples, unsatisfactory levels (≥102 CFU/g) were detected (3 samples collected at catering and 1 sample at retail). For L. monocytogenes, there were no significant differences between the rates of contamination for the samples collected from ports, manufacture, retail supermarkets, and other retailers (P = 0.288). There were no differences between the rates of contamination for other potential pathogens detected between samples from different settings. The prevalence of hygiene indicators (Escherichia coli, Enterobacteriaceae, and aerobic colony counts) at import was significantly lower than in samples collected from manufacturers, retail, or catering (P < 0.01). Samples collected from catering gave poorer results than those from all other settings. Regardless of the stage in the food chain, samples from Thailand and from other non–European Union countries were of significantly better microbiological quality with respect to indicator organisms than those from the United Kingdom or from other European Union countries (P = <0.001).

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Routine microbiological monitoring of 2,721 samples was reviewed.

  • Six samples (<1%) were unsatisfactory due to the levels of bacterial pathogens.

  • Hygiene indicator bacteria were significantly higher in samples from catering.

  • Port samples had significantly lower levels of hygiene indicators.

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