The Food Standards Agency (FSA), the UK poultry industry, and UK retailers have agreed a target to measure efforts to reduce the levels of the food bug campylobacter in chickens.

Nearly two thirds of raw chickens sold in the UK are contaminated with campylobacter, according to figures from the FSA. It is estimated that around 300,000 people fall ill and around 80 die each year as a result of the bug.

However, the new target for the industry aims reduce the numbers of the most contaminated birds in UK poultry houses from 27% to 10% by 2015. Achievement of the target, the FSA said, could mean a reduction in campylobacter food poisoning of up to 30%; around 90,000 cases per year.

Dr Alison Gleadle, director of food hygiene at the FSA, said: “The Food Standards Agency has identified tackling campylobacter as its number one food safety priority. There are about 850 million chickens slaughtered in this country every year. This target is challenging but achievable. However, solutions need to be found at every stage of the food chain to stop this bug from spreading.

“The new target will underpin all of our joint work on reducing campylobacter in chicken and allow us to measure the success of these interventions. We are working closely with the food industry to make chicken as safe to eat as possible,” she added.