The bacterium Campylobacter is considered to be the most common bacterial cause of human gastroenteritis in the world.

Campylobacteriosis is a zoonosis, meaning that the disease is transmitted to humans from animals or animal by-products.

The bacterium is widely distributed in most warm blood mammals, such as cattle, poultry, sheep and domestic pets and the main route of transmission is food-borne, generally through undercooked meat and poultry and raw or contaminated milk.

Prevention is better than cure:

There are many ways to prevent Campylobacter infection:

  1. In slaughterhouses and butcheries, good hygienic slaughtering practices can reduce the contamination of carcasses by faeces but will not guarantee the absence of Campylobacter from meat and meat products. Training in hygienic food handling for abattoir workers is essential to keep contamination to a minimum.
  2. In kitchens it is essential that staff wash their hands regularly, especially between tasks, after handling raw meat and after the bathroom.

3. Bactericidal treatment, such as cooking, pasteurisation and irradiation is the only method of eliminating Campylobacter from contaminated foods. All poultry and meats should be cooked thoroughly.

4. All work surfaces and utensils should be kept clean and clean-as you-go practices should be common place within the kitchen.

Infections are generally mild, but can be fatal in children under two, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals, especially in developing countries.

Onset of Campylobacteriosis symptoms usually occur 2-5 days after infection.

Symptoms include :

  • Diarrhoea (often bloody)
  • abdominal pain
  • fever
  • headache and
  • nausea.

This typically lasts 2-6 days.

Although death is rare, complications have been reported such as bacteraemia, hepatitis, pancreatitis and miscarriages. Antimicrobial treatment is generally not required, except in invasive cases.

Why is washing your chicken before cooking it such a bad practice?

When washing your chicken harmful bacteria, like CampylobacterSalmonella or Clostridium perfringens, splashes off the chicken as you wash it. Just because you cannot physically see this happening does not mean that it isn’t. It can splash the bacteria all over you, kitchen towels, countertops, and any other foods that might not be cooked afterward such as salads. This can make individuals ill, especially people with weaker immune systems such as young children, pregnant women, older adults, and immunocompromised individuals.

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Adrian Carter