Asda is introducing a steam process, SonoSteam, to some of its chicken production in a move the retailer claims can reduce campylobacter contamination in fresh products by as much as 80%.

SonoSteam kills campylobacter on the skin of chickens through the application of steam and ultrasound. The process takes 1.5 seconds per bird and has been tested at Asda supplier Faccenda Foods since December.

Asda said it will initially roll out the SonoSteam process to 30% of its whole bird supply.

Elsewhere, Asda is trialling a "no-thin" strategy with its other major poultry supplier, 2 Sisters Food Group. This means farmers don’t thin out the flocks of chickens through their natural growing cycle, which it is thought can impact on campylobacter levels.

Asda said that it also expects to increase its roast in a bag range from 50% to 75% of its total range over the next 18 months. According to the company, roast in a bag eliminates the need for consumers to handle raw chicken, reducing the threat of food borne illnesses. The remaining 25% of Asda's whole bird range will be re-launched in October with barrier film packaging to reduce leakages, the company added.

Asda's announcement follows a report earlier this week from the UK's Food Standards Agency which suggested that one-third of the country's population is at risk of contracting campylobacter food poisoning at some point in their lives. The FSA said 280,000 people in the UK fall sick due to campylobacter poisoning each year.

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