Research – June is peak time for Campylobacter food poisoning; chlorinated chicken will not help

Oxford Martin

Campylobacter kswfoodworld

Around 3,500 Brits are hospitalised every year with campylobacteriosis – food poisoning caused by Campylobacter contamination. It causes the greatest number of hospitalisations of any food-borne disease in the UK and is the number one cause of bacterial food poisoning. Yet, despite falling Campylobacter levels on chicken over the past five years, levels of illness have not changed. An expert review of the sources, spread and control of Campylobacter from the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford concludes today that further interventions are needed – but no one solution will provide perfect control.

Led by Professor Matthew Goddard from the University of Lincoln and published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the restatement clarifies the scientific evidence available from a variety of sources in order to better inform policy decisions and provide clarity on the broad scientific consensus. This is vital as the prevalence of antibiotic resistant Campylobacter is increasing in the UK and has been designated a ‘high priority’ pathogen by the WHO.

Key conclusions of the restatement include that there was no clear evidence that long-term use of chlorine rinses, as practised in the USA, lowered levels of the bacteria or food poisoning caused, and that a broader series of control measures had strong evidence for its overall effectiveness as a package.

The UK’s poultry industry has successfully reduced the quantity of retail chicken testing positive for Campylobacter from 73% in 2014 to 40% in 2018. However, cases of illness have not reduced over the same period. In addition to wider control measures, beef, lamb and pork need to be more widely understood to be carriers of the bacteria and potential causes of food poisoning.

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