The Which? group have contacted seven of the United Kingdom’s largest supermarket chains in response to what they perceive as a potentially fatal food poisoning bug that threatens the health of the general public. They are advising the major stores to take a more proactive stance to address the potential health issues caused by the bacteria campylobacter, which is sometimes found in chickens and commonly leads to serious illness.

Which? are looking to the supermarkets Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose to unite behind a risk that they think is being overlooked somewhat and not being taken sufficiently seriously by them. The consumer group have prompted the stores to take a “more visible and co-ordinated industry-wide approach” in handling the problem to demonstrate their commitment. They have demanded that the supermarkets make their plans more clearly visible to the public as to what they are doing to meet the issue and to set out a timescale for when any action is planned to be carried out.

Campylobacter is one of the most common groups of germs (bacteria) that can cause food poisoning in the United States and also the UK. Food poisoning typically results in gastroenteritis that can lead to diarrhoea and vomiting. The bacteria is often found in raw meat, especially poultry such as chicken and turkey, but can also be found in unpasteurised milk or untreated water. It has been known for cats, dogs and other domestic pets that have the infection to pass on the bacteria to humans, such as those who regularly visit farms.

Although the infections that it causes are often mild, there can be complications such as dehydration, so patients are frequently advised to top their fluid levels up and in severe cases there may be a need to take antibiotic medicines. Campylobacter has been known to be fatal among some groups in society such as very young children, the elderly and those people whose immune system is not particularly well-developed.

England has experienced campylobacter outbreaks in recent times that were associated with poultry liver, as after a lunch event at a hotel in Surrey in November 2013. Some guests reported having symptoms akin to gastroenteritis and of 138 guests, 46 were unwell and eleven were proven to have the infection after laboratory tests had been carried out. Analysis suggests that between 2002 and 2012, the number of reported cases of campylobacter in England and Wales increased from 48,133 to 65,032. 
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