Careful with that chicken pate; significant source of campylobacter in UK

Campylobacter is usually number 1 or 2 when it comes to causes of foodborne illness, so I’m having trouble with the lede from the BBC that claims over 90 per cent of cases of campy in the U.K. this year were due to people eating undercooked chicken liver pate, often at weddings.

The Daily Mirror specifies that 90 per cent of outbreaks of campylobacter at catering venues in 2011 were linked to people eating chicken pate.

I have no idea what the U.K. Health Protection Agency (HPA) actually said because there is nothing on their website yet, although they apparently analyzed 18 outbreaks of campylobacter in 2011 across England.

In all, 443 people became unwell and one had to be hospitalised.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has reminded caterers to cook poultry livers to prevent infection.

Of the 18 outbreaks, 14 occurred in catering venues, and 13 of these were linked to chicken or duck liver pate.

Seven were linked to wedding receptions at hotels, banqueting venues or public houses and six were associated with catering at other functions such as hotels, clubs and restaurants.

The HPA found that livers used to make the parfait or pate were undercooked allowing the liver to remain pink in the center.

The FSA issued updated advice to caterers on the safe handling and cooking of livers twice in 2010, but campylobacter outbreaks associated with the consumption of chicken liver pate have continued to occur.

Last week, some 80 patrons nibbling on hors d’oeuvres during a fundraiser at the fancy Lowry Hotel in Manchester were sickened with campylobacter linked to the chicken pate.

Maybe FSA should try different messages using different media, and perhaps evaluate if any of their advisories actually result in fewer sick people.

PS: The Food Standards Agency subsequently published a statement that says:

New figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal that 90% of campylobacter outbreaks at catering venues were linked to undercooked chicken liver pate. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.”

Nice reporting BBC (state-sponsored jazz and bad pop music).