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I’ll have the chicken, with a side order of Campylobacter

The general public certainly seem to know about E.coli and Salmonella (remember Edwina Currie with her eggs scare?) but how many people would be able to name Campylobacter as a source of food poisoning? Nevertheless this spiral-shaped bacterium, which penetrates the mucus membranes and attacks the immune system, is the most common form of food poisoning in England and Wales.

Every year it is responsible for in the region of 460,000 poisoning cases, 22,000 hospital admissions and claims around 110 lives. Typical symptoms are flu’-like:  high temperature and aches, but also stomach cramps, pain and bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea. 1 in 1000 people may even become paralysed temporarily as a result of Campylobacter.

Campylobacter found on 65% of shop-bought chicken

A high proportion of Campylobacter food poisoning is caused by eating chicken that has become contaminated with the bacteria. In fact a Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey 5 years ago suggested that 65% of chicken on sale in shops was affected. Monitoring since has shown that this figure still stands.

The FSA is looking to industry to try to reduce the incidence of campylobacter in chicken. Chief executive, Catherine Brown announced this week that it would be improving information about levels of campylobacter in the food chain and wanted to see a “shift in culture” in the food industry. So what does this mean? Well essentially it means poultry farmers improving biosecurity, processing plants improving production facilities, more frequent testing of meat, improvements to packaging and more advice to consumers.

How to kill campylobacter bacteria

Cooking chicken correctly to 70°C and ensuring the juices run clear will kill any Campylobacter present on the raw meat, but there is always the threat of cross contamination. A good example is workers not washing their hands properly after handling chicken; or consumers not washing their hands after stroking animals, since they can also carry the bacteria. Proper storage of chicken is also essential to prevent cross contamination – raw and cooked food should be covered appropriately and stored separately in a refrigerator. So, too, is the use of separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked meats and poultry and making sure that they are cleaned effectively before and after use.

FSA urges industry to treat reduction as a core business priority

Ms Brown told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “While we remain committed to joint working with industry we want to encourage and see producers, processors and retailers treat Campylobacter reduction not simply as a technical issue, but as a core business priority, and I see some encouraging signs of that happening.

Of course in order to understand the measures required to reduce risks of Campylobacter affecting the consumer, food processors and caterers require appropriate food safety training. Our Food Safety courses provides detailed information on the various forms of microbiological contamination, how it occurs and how to control it. Candidates can choose whether to take exams focusing on Food Safety for Manufacturing, Catering or Retailing and the course is offered at level 2, 3 and level 4. The courses can be undertaken at our training centre in Skipton, or for larger groups we can provide tailored in-house training.

Find out more about our food safety training or speak to Claire in the office on 01756 700802.