The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) is launching an investigation into safety standards at chicken processing facilities, following reports of unsanitary conditions at several plants.

According to the Guardian, which first alerted authorities and the public to serious gaps in production standards and hygiene at poultry processing facilities, based on whistleblowers' accounts, the FSA has confirmed the start of an investigation into the businesses in question. It is believed that safety and sanitary failings at processing facilities are a contributing factor to the incidence of campylobacter infection, the most common type of food poisoning in the UK.

The Guardian's own investigation suggested that a number of serious blunders at processing facilities put public health at risk. As a result of its findings, some of the country's biggest retailers, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's, started their own investigations into suppliers.

However, the FSA announced that it was dropping plans for a name-and-shame campaign that would identify the businesses found to be ignoring or underestimating safety measures. The regulator changed its mind after talks with the industry and interventions from several government departments.

It is estimated that two in three cases of food poisoning in the UK are due to campylobacter and are fully preventable. The spread of the bacteria can be restricted by tight safety requirements and by thorough cooking, but at present some 280,000 people across the country get infected each year, the Guardian reported.