Almost three-quarters of fresh chickens were found to have traces of a potentially fatal food-poisoning bug, a food watchdog has warned.
Tackling the campylobacter bug, the most common form of food poisoning, is the watchdog's number one food safety priority.
Publishing results from the first two quarters of a year-long survey of campylobacter in fresh chickens, the British watchdog the Food Safety Authority (FSA) said no retailers were meeting end-of-production targets for reducing contamination.
"These results show that the food industry, especially retailers, need to do more to reduce the amount of campylobacter on fresh chickens," said FSA director of policy Steve Wearne.
Its survey found that 18pc of chickens tested had campylobacter over 1,000 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g), the highest level of contamination, and more than 70pc had some campylobacter on them.
"This shows there is a long way to go before consumers are protected from this bug," said Wearne, though he stressed that if chicken is cooked thoroughly and preparation guidelines are properly followed, the risk to public health is extremely low.
The FSA said its survey found Wal-Mart's Asda to be the only major grocer to have a higher incidence of chicken contaminated by campylobacter at the highest level, compared to the industry average.