Who’s to blame? Campy cases up almost 50% in UK, Ireland

Wales Online reports that sloppy food hygiene at home has been blamed for a worrying increase in cases of campylobacter food poisoning.

Carried by chickens, it is thought large numbers of raw chickens sold in supermarkets are infected with campylobacter, which can be spread to other foods in the kitchen via cross-contamination.

Tom Humphrey, a professorial fellow in food safety at the University of Liverpool, said: “Campylobacter doesn’t need any exaggerating; we don’t need to big up its importance. My daughter got it when she was seven and lost 7kg in two days. She was passing nothing but blood.

Official figures show there were 70,000 cases of campylobacter illnesses in the UK in 2010; the latest figures for Wales show there are some 3,000 a year but it is thought for every one reported case, a further 10 go unreported.

There were 2,440 official cases notified in the Republic of Ireland last year, a rise of 46.9pc over 2010.

Humphrey said because most poultry had campylobacter, “The importance, therefore, is very much on the careful handling of poultry. Studies have found campylobacter on domestic dishcloths, which is symptomatic of what is happening in the kitchen. We tend to take things for granted and can be a bit sloppy when it comes to food hygiene at home.

“All cows have campylobacter and all milk will have cow poo in it, if you don’t heat it, there’s a risk of campylobacter.

“Kittens and puppies can get diarrhea caused by campylobacter and, particularly for young children, being in contact with that is a risk factor.

“But overwhelmingly, the biggest factor is the consumption of under-cooked chicken – this makes up between 50% and 80% of cases.”

He added that intervention on the farm is the key to controlling campylobacter in chickens.

So is it the farm, home kitchens, food service, everywhere, what’s the message?