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Study identifies campylobacter in poultry as risk factor for gastroenteritis in humans

February 2, 2006
safefood Press Release
www.safefoodonline.com
Recent research, funded by safefood, has indicated a high occurrence of the food poisoning bacterium, Campylobacter in raw poultry, particularly chicken, with 49.9% of retail samples of raw chicken testing positive for the bacterium.
Speaking about the project, Dr Paul Whyte from UCD, lead Researcher, said ‘The study was carried out to provide all island public health data on Campylobacter. Our research showed that a high proportion of human Campylobacter cases are linked with the handling and consumption of contaminated foodstuffs of animal origin, particularly poultry.
Campylobacter is a common cause of bacterial foodborne infection in many countries including the island of Ireland. Scientists have detected the pathogen in raw poultry produced worldwide’.


Dr Thomas Quigley, Director of Food Science, safefood said, ‘The poultry industry has been working closely in partnership with the authorities on the island of Ireland to reduce the levels of Campylobacter. This study shows that the prevalence of the bacterium on raw poultry remains high. We know that during the handling and preparation of foods in the domestic kitchen Campylobacter is easily spread, readily contaminating other foods and surfaces.
Traditionally it has been common practice to wash raw poultry under the tap, prior to cooking. But this has been identified as a major risk factor because it increases the potential for the spread of Campylobacter and other bacteria throughout the kitchen, as they are easily transferred through splashes and drips’.
‘These research findings further support the advice not to wash poultry before cooking. The presence of Campylobacter is a compelling reason why consumers should place raw chicken straight into the oven and ensure that the meat is cooked thoroughly, until it is piping hot all the way through, the juices run clear and there is no pink meat left. By correctly following this simple advice to ensure proper cooking, consumers can be reassured that the process will destroy any harmful bacteria present, leaving the meat perfectly safe to eat’, he continued.
Campylobacter is recognised to be the most common cause of bacterial foodborne illness in humans in many countries, including the island of Ireland. There were over 2,600 cases notified on the island of Ireland in 2004, which was over 3 times the number of Salmonella cases. However, many of those affected do not report it to medical practitioners and as a result, it is widely accepted that significant underreporting occurs. The symptoms of campylobacteriosis, which generally last 2-5 days, include diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and sometimes fever and vomiting.
European scientific experts will meet on the 8th February at a conference in Dublin, organised by Teagasc and funded by the European Commission to discuss the issue of Campylobacter in the food and water chain.
Editor’s Notes:
The study using genetic fingerprinting investigated the role of foods and companion animals in the epidemiology of Campylobacter infection in humans on the island of Ireland.
A full copy of *A Comparative Study of Thermophilic Campylobacter Isolates of Clinical, Food and Pet Origin using Genotypic and Antimicrobial Characterisation Techniques can be found at www.safefoodonline.com/safefood/uploads/campylobacterreport.pdf
The research was an all island study conducted by: the Centre for Food Safety and the Department of Large Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin; Queen’s University Belfast; Department of Microbiology, National University of Ireland; Public Health Laboratory, Cherry Orchard Hospital; Public Health Laboratory, Belfast City Hospital and the Department of Bacteriology, University College Hospital, Galway