The Co-operative Food has announced that its entire ‘whole chicken’ range will only be available in ‘roast-in-the-bag’ packaging in response to consumer demand for food safety.

The unprecedented move by a UK retailer will support food safety by eliminating the need for consumers to handle raw chicken, thereby limiting the potential spread of bacteria while also aiding cooking convenience for time-pressed cooks.

Foods Standards Agency guidelines encourage consumers not to wash raw chicken prior to cooking and, after handling raw chicken, to wash hands and utensils thoroughly.

The launch of The Co-operative Food roast-in-the-bag chickens, in January 2015, will provide extra reassurance to consumers that they can prepare roast chicken safely in their own home, the group said.

The rollout of the new packaging, at no extra cost to the customer, follows a successful trial of whole chickens in roast-in-the-bag packaging, which now account for a fifth of all whole chicken purchases at The Co-op.

Steve Murrells, retail chief executive, The Co-operative Group, said: “I am proud that The Co-operative Food will be the first UK retailer to take this step, which underlines our commitment to customer convenience and food safety.

“Shoppers have told us it will make cooking easier because the chicken requires no preparation and can be placed straight in the oven, making it convenient for time-pressed families. Importantly, the new packaging offers a clear food safety advantage.”