Blame the consumer – Nebraska-style

Campylobacter is on the rise, so the Douglas County Health Department has decided to remind consumers they are the critical control point when it comes to food safety.

With 40 confirmed cases of campylobacter this year — 35 per cent of cases treated in an emergency department and 12 per cent requiring hospitalization – the health department reports 85 per cent of those who became ill had eaten poultry products and 32 per cent had handled raw meat. All of the cases have involved meals prepared in the home.

With 40 people, this percentage talk is fairly meaningless. The press release also does not state whether these campylobacter cases involved frozen chicken thingies. And yes, it’s important for consumers to handle any raw food like it’s toxic waste, but why isn’t the public health dude asking, why so much campylobacter in food?

Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said,

“This illness can be prevented with just a little extra precaution. The cases range in age from less than one year to over 80 years of age.”

The release also states that,

“cooked food appears to have been contaminated when it was reintroduced to plates that previously held the meat which had dripped juice on the plate.”

If there are 40 cases of campylobacter in Nebraska that can be traced to cross-contamination via plates, this is a significant research finding and should be published immediately in a peer-reviewed journal. We have found in our own research that cross-contamination is much higher than anyone expects. But then the release goes into standard talk of “Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill,” so maybe this is speculation rather than a scientific assessment.

Don’t know, can’t tell. Maybe the people who write press releases should provide more information and be less patronizing.