Marks & Spencer to tackle challenge of reducing levels of Campylobacter in whole chickens

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced details of its five point action plan to tackle the industry-wide challenge of reducing levels of Campylobacter in whole chickens.

borat.chickenThe measures, which have been in place for the majority of M&S chickens sold since the end of September, include even clearer front-of-pack labelling and double bagging whole chickens so they can be placed straight into the oven without the need to unwrap and handle the chicken. Action is also underway on M&S farms with bonuses paid to farmers who produce Campylobacter free farms and innovative new safety technology in place on the production line.

The M&S five point action plan has been implemented with 2 Sisters Food Group (M&S’ biggest supplier of whole chickens) since the end of September and will be rolled out to the remainder of the M&S supply chain by the end of the year.


Step away from the turkey II: bad advice from experts?

Thanksgiving brings a flurry of turkey tips, but the folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension seem to have some conflicting advice.

More-doctors-smoke-Camels-than-any-other-cigaretteUniversity of Illinois Extension says, “Wash the turkey inside and out and pat skin dry with paper towels,” yet most other Extension advice is, don’t wash the damn bird, you’ll have bacteria flying everywhere.

And, if smoking is allowed inside, provide guests with deep ashtrays After the guests leave, check inside, under upholstery and in trash cans for smoldering cigarette butts.

Campylobacter in UK: Just cook it still doesn’t cut it

The British Poultry Council (BPC) told The Grocer that media reports that supermarkets are knowingly selling chickens contaminated with Campylobacter may mislead consumers, and that “cooking it properly and observing good kitchen hygiene” will take care of the problem.

album-Rolling-Stones-Let-It-BleedIt’s easy to blame consumers. What are producers doing to reduce risk?

An article in today’s (19 November) The Times cited BPC data that showed 24% of a randomly tested sample of 5,000 batches of chicken had tested positive for the highest levels of campylobacter contamination.

The results were similar to those revealed in August in  the first batch of quarterly results from a 12-month survey currently being undertaken by the FSA on the prevalence and levels of campylobacter contamination on fresh whole chickens and their packaging. The FSA survey showed 16% of birds at the highest level of contamination of more than 1000 colony forming units per gram, and 26% at between 100 and 1000 cfu/g.

BPC CEO Andrew Large said The Times article was based on a small sample of testing, designed to assist members of the Joint Working Group on Campylobacter in their operations.

“As the data is neither comprehensive nor statistically robust, it will not be useful for consumers and risks being misleading,” he warned, adding: “Consumers have a key role to play as good kitchen hygiene will remain a cornerstone of preventing foodborne illness.”

A spokeswoman for the British Retail Consortium said, “As long as campylobacter is present in the food chain, and we don’t yet have the solution for that despite our best efforts. We need to maintain the very strong message that all raw chicken should be handled with appropriate care and releasing incomplete data could dilute that message to consumers and lead to confusion.”

The FSA will next week issue the second set of quarterly results of its campylobacter survey, when it will also name-and-shame” retailers with the worst record for campylobacter-contaminated poultry.

Spin away.

(And this is from the last time I saw the Stones, in 1981; didn’t need to go again in Brisbane the other night.)

Really? Freezing reduces Campy in chicken

As super professor Schaffner would say, I’d like to see the risk assessment for this.

FunkyChickenHiFood safety experts have suggested that freezing chickens during processing for human consumption could vastly reduce the chances of people catching a food poisoning bug.

Freezing chickens found with campylobacter cells in them could reduce the rate of passing the infection on to humans by up to 90%, according to Dr Frieda Jorgensen, from Public Health England.

In Iceland, chickens found to be infected with campylobacter when they reached an abattoir were not allowed to be sold as fresh or chilled chickens, but instead frozen.

That process does not happen in the UK, Dr Jorgensen said, partly because customers prefer chilled or fresh chicken, rather than frozen produce.

She said: “Freezing does bring about a reduction in the number of (campylobacter) cells. We believe that they can reduce that by 90% if you are undertaking this freezing process.

“And that reducing the number of campylobacter cells on the chicken can matter in terms of the public health risk.” 

7 sickened with E. coli and Campy from manure-in-wells in Wisconsin

A young family visiting Door County for a weekend in mid-September were the subject of a public health investigation when they returned to their Calumet County home and their four-month-old daughter came down with an illness that was identified as E. coli bacteria from a bovine source.

Garden_Decoration__Well_“The department of health got involved. They asked me where I was. That was several phone calls, to try to narrow it down,” said the infant’s mother (she asked that we not use their names).

It turns out the family had stayed that weekend at a West Jacksonport home now identified as in the area of concern for well contamination after a Sept. 8 manure spreading session that included spreading into a sinkhole. This was the Monday after torrential rains wreaked havoc and saturated the landscape.
“I used well water to make her bottles,” she said. “No odor or color to the water. There was no sign.”

And there was no sign in the baby that she was ill until the family returned to their Calumet County home. Then she started exhibiting signs of food poisoning and was brought in for a medical examination, where it was determined that she was infected with E. coli.

“The department of health nurse said since the E. coli was combined with a campylobacter bacteria, that’s really indicative of a bovine source. They were able to track it to the source based on the type of bacteria in the water.”

The mother said she does not understand why manure spreading is not more regulated.

“Especially with the fractured bedrock and shallow soil. It doesn’t take much for it to get in the groundwater.”

Reporting on the West Jacksonport well contamination at the Nov. 10 meeting of the Door County Board of Health, Door County Health Officer Rhonda Kolberg said drinking manure-contaminated well water in the area of concern after Sept. 8 sickened a total of seven people.

“They were spreading as they normally would. They spread into a sinkhole, which they should not have done,” Kolberg said. “We found out about it because the people with the affected well called DNR, and their water was brown and foamy.”

Mark Borchardt, the U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist who helped track down the 2007 source of contamination at The Log Den when 211 customers and 18 employees were struck with gastro-intestinal illness from norovirus at the recently opened restaurant (the outbreak was eventually traced to the restaurant’s new septic system), did the viral testing of the West Jacksonport wells.

“He was trying to find a correlation between manure and the water,” Kolberg said. “He did determine it was bovine contamination.”

Maybe cook from frozen, using a thermometer to verify safety? Campylobacter exploits chicken juice to flourish

A study from the Institute of Food Research has shown that Campylobacter’s persistence in food processing sites and the kitchen is boosted by ‘chicken juice.’

raw-chicken-bacteria-537x357Organic matter exuding from chicken carcasses, “chicken juice”, provides these bacteria with the perfect environment to persist in the food chain. This emphasises the importance of cleaning surfaces in food preparation, and may lead to more effective ways of cleaning that can reduce the incidence of Campylobacter.

The study was led by Helen Brown, a PhD student supervised by Dr Arnoud van Vliet at IFR, which is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Helen’s PhD studentship is co-funded by an industrial partner, Campden BRI.

The researchers collected the liquids produced from defrosting chickens, and found that this helped Campylobacter attach to surfaces and subsequently form biofilms. Biofilms are specialised structures some bacteria form on surfaces that protect them from threats from the environment.

“We have discovered that this increase in biofilm formation was due to chicken juice coating the surfaces we used with a protein-rich film,” said Helen Brown. “This film then makes it much easier for the Campylobacter bacteria to attach to the surface, and it provides them with an additional rich food source.”

Campylobacter aren’t particularly hardy bacteria, so one area of research has been to understand exactly how they manage to survive outside of their usual habitat, the intestinal tract of poultry. They are sensitive to oxygen, but during biofilm formation the bacteria protect themselves with a layer of slime. This also makes them more resistant to antimicrobials and disinfection treatments

Understanding this and how Campylobacter persists in the food production process will help efforts to reduce the high percentage of chickens that reach consumers contaminated with the bacteria. Although thorough cooking kills off the bacteria, around 500,000 people suffer from Campylobacter food poisoning each year in the UK. Reducing this number, and the amount of infected chicken on supermarket shelves, is now the number one priority of the Food Standards Agency.

“This study highlights the importance of thorough cleaning of food preparation surfaces to limit the potential of bacteria to form biofilms,” said Helen.

 Chicken juice enhances surface attachment and biofilm formation of Campylobacter jejuni


Appl. Environ. Microbiol. November 2014 vol. 80 no. 22 7053-7060

Helen L. Brown, Mark Reuter, Louise J. Salt, Kathryn L. Cross, Roy P. Betts and Arnoud H. M. van Vliet; M. W. Griffiths, Editor


The bacterial pathogen Campylobacter jejuni is primarily transmitted via the consumption of contaminated foodstuffs, especially poultry meat. In food processing environments, C. jejuni is required to survive a multitude of stresses and requires the use of specific survival mechanisms, such as biofilms. An initial step in biofilm formation is bacterial attachment to a surface. Here, we investigated the effects of a chicken meat exudate (chicken juice) on C. jejuni surface attachment and biofilm formation. Supplementation of brucella broth with ≥5% chicken juice resulted in increased biofilm formation on glass, polystyrene, and stainless steel surfaces with four C. jejuni isolates and one C. coli isolate in both microaerobic and aerobic conditions. When incubated with chicken juice, C. jejuni was both able to grow and form biofilms in static cultures in aerobic conditions. Electron microscopy showed that C. jejuni cells were associated with chicken juice particulates attached to the abiotic surface rather than the surface itself. This suggests that chicken juice contributes to C. jejuni biofilm formation by covering and conditioning the abiotic surface and is a source of nutrients. Chicken juice was able to complement the reduction in biofilm formation of an aflagellated mutant of C. jejuni, indicating that chicken juice may support food chain transmission of isolates with lowered motility. We provide here a useful model for studying the interaction of C. jejuni biofilms in food chain-relevant conditions and also show a possible mechanism for C. jejuni cell attachment and biofilm initiation on abiotic surfaces within the food chain. 

Campy is tops: Disease burden of foodborne infections in Denmark

Campylobacter is the foodborne bacteria that contributes most to the burden of disease in Denmark. This is the finding of a study from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, which for the first time in Denmark ranks three foodborne bacteria according to the burden of disease they impose on society as a whole. The study provides authorities and other decision makers with the scientific basis to prioritize initiatives aimed at increasing food safety and reducing the health consequences of infection with one of the three bacteria.

chickenEven in countries like Denmark which have sound health surveillance systems it is unknown exactly how many people get a foodborne infection. This is partly because Danes – just like people all over the world – do not necessarily go to the doctor when they get an upset stomach, and partly because laboratory tests do not always identify which bacteria is making people sick. Therefore diseases are not always recorded and subsequently included in official statistics. As such their true impact is underestimated.

For the first time in Denmark researchers at the National Food Institute, together with colleagues from Statens Serum Institut, have calculated the real burden of disease from infections caused by salmonella, campylobacter and verotoxin-producing escherichia coli (VTEC). In their calculations the researchers corrected for underreporting and underdiagnosis, thereby putting a number on how many people actually get sick from the three bacteria.
The burden of disease is reported in DALYs, which stands for disability adjusted life years. DALYs are a measure of how many years of life the total Danish population loses when people have to live with a reduced quality of life and/or die earlier than expected due to disease – in this case foodborne infections.

“Our calculations provide the authorities with comparable and – as such – better measurements of the impact these diseases have on society. The results can support decisions about where to best intervene to ensure that as few people as possible become sick from the food they eat,” senior researcher Sara Pires from the National Food Institute says.

FunkyChickenHiThe study is based on surveillance data from 2012. The calculations estimate that for every reported salmonella case, seven cases of disease were not reported. For campylobacter infections it is estimated that one out of 12 cases were reported, while the figures for VTEC infections is one out of 31 cases. This means that the actual number of sick in 2012 is estimated at 8,386 for salmonella, 44,736 for campylobacter and 5,890 for VTEC.

The total burden of disease was highest for campylobacter with 1,593 DALYs, followed by salmonella (389 DALYs) and VTEC (113 DALYs). For both campylobacter and salmonella infections the disease that contributed the most to the total burden of disease was irritable bowel syndrome, while for VTEC it was renal failure.

Using data from the source account for salmonella and campylobacter, the researchers estimated which sources contributed most to the total burden of disease for the two infections.

For campylobacter infections 38% of the total number of DALYs were associated with foreign travel, while the major source of the burden of disease in Denmark was broilers – either from direct consumption of chicken meat or from environmental contamination.
“There could be substantial benefits to our society in terms of fewer sick days and lower costs to our health system from focusing efforts on minimizing infection with campylobacter in broilers,” Sara Pires explains.

UK food stores flock to roast-in-the-bag chickens

It’s the one recipe to which even rudimentary cooks like to add their unique touches – perhaps a herby garnish or a few strips of bacon.

roast.chicken.june.10But it seems the days of roast chicken prepared in the distinctive way that your family has always enjoyed it may be numbered (the bird, right, was cooked to excess of 165F before serving).

Supermarkets are, according to Valerie Ellliot of the Daily Mail, urging shoppers to buy chickens in sealed ready- to-roast bags, amid fears that people are no longer able to maintain basic kitchen hygiene.

The aim is to reduce the number of campylobacter food-poisoning cases caused by handling fresh birds.

Supermarkets are increasingly promoting chickens in roast bags that are opened only after cooking. There is no human contact with raw skin and a lower risk of poultry juices spreading bugs. In most cases, they are marginally more expensive – Tesco charges £6 for a 3.3lb bagged version against £5 for a plain chicken.

Asda launched roast-in-bag flavoured chickens in September last year. Six million have been sold, and they now make up 30 per cent of all its chicken sales. A turkey crown in a bag will be on sale for Christmas.

Marks and Spencer now sells two thirds of its chickens in bags and they are also sold at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Aldi, while Morrisons and Lidl intend to introduce them.

Restaurateur Mark Hix, who specialises in British cuisine, said: ‘I don’t think people should buy chickens in bags. That removes all the pleasure of cooking. Good hygiene is not difficult.’

cooked.chickenGood hygiene is difficult – it requires people to pay attention.

But it can be done. Just stop saying it’s simple.

Tom Parker Bowles, Mail on Sunday food critic asked, “has it really come to this? A nation so lacking in basic common sense that we’re not to be trusted to wash our own hands? A country so obsessed with ease and convenience that the birds we put in our ovens must be sanitized and shoved in a plastic bag?

“I’ve been cooking roast chicken for more than 20 years and have never once caught any nefarious bug. We all know that raw chicken is to be treated with care: separate chopping board, hands scrubbed with soap and all the rest.”

Yes, the ole’ I’ve-been-doing-it-this-way-all-my-life-and-never-got-sick line.

But people are getting sick.

A roast chicken is the cornerstone of any decent cook’s repertoire. I’m making one tonight, stuffed with 30 cloves of garlic, rosemary, sage, and other stuff, and then get to make stock for a couple of days (I’ve got a bunch of mushrooms to use, so I see a mushroom soup in the near future.

Maybe in addition to cooking food in plastic, which may have a role, there is a learning moment to talk about the prevalence of dangerous bugs and how they can best be controlled. And that involves using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, not pedantic piping hot advice.

Ciprofloxacin resistant Campylobacter in broiler chicken in Canada

This case study outlines the patterns of ciprofloxacin resistance in Campylobacter isolated from retail chicken meat in Canada. Campylobacter is the third most common cause of foodborne enteric illness in Canada; it usually causes a self-limited illness, but in some cases antimicrobials may be indicated. Ciprofloxacin (a fluoroquinolone) is an antimicrobial used to treat a number of infections in humans; other fluoroquinolones are used both therapeutically and prophylactically in livestock animals, including broiler chickens.

ab.retail.cdn.foodThe Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS) has been testing retail chicken meat samples across Canada for the presence of Campylobacter and for resistant strains since 2003. At the end of 2010, CIPARS documented that retail chicken meat samples in Canada contaminated with Campylobacter ranged from 36% in the Maritimes to 42% in British Columbia. Furthermore, levels of ciprofloxacin-resistant Campylobacter varied across the country, with higher percentages in British Columbia (17% in 2010) and Saskatchewan (11%), in comparison with lower percentages in Ontario (5%), Québec (2%), and the Maritimes (4%). In 2011 and 2012, resistance declined in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, but began to rise in Québec and Ontario. Recently, the Canadian poultry industry developed a policy to eliminate the preventive use of third generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones in broiler chickens (meat chickens) and broiler breeder chickens (chickens that produce the eggs that will become the broilers).

CIPARS will continue to monitor trends in antimicrobial use and resistance following this industry intervention. By following good food preparation and hygiene practices, Canadians can reduce the risks of developing a Campylobacter infection (resistant or susceptible) from retail chicken.

Public Health Agency of Canada, CCDR, Volume 40 S-2

A. Agunos, D. Léger, B. Avery, E. Parmley, A. Deckert, C. Carson

R. Reid-Smith, R. Irwin

It was the Campy in raw milk provided by parents that sickened 38 related to a Wisconsin high school football team

When Bri­anna Win­nekins, 18, was ad­mit­ted to Chippewa Val­ley Hospi­tal in Du­rand Sept. 22, her par­ents, Karla and Brian, had no idea what was caus­ing her symp­toms, which in­cluded a 105-de­gree fever.

colbert.raw.milkIt didn’t take long be­fore more Du­rand High School stu­dents — all as­so­ci­ated with the foot­ball team — be­gan be­ing ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal and a link was made be­tween the ill­ness and a team din­ner at a Du­rand church Sept. 18.

On Oct. 24, State Depart­ment of Health Ser­vices of­fi­cials an­nounced raw milk served at a potluck team meal likely caused the out­break of ill­ness among Du­rand High School foot­ball play­ers, man­agers and coaches in Septem­ber.

The out­break af­fected 38 mem­bers of the foot­ball team who at­tended the team din­ner on Sept. 18. Test­ing per­formed at the State Lab of Hy­giene and area labs and clin­ics con­firmed that the ill­ness was caused by Campy­lobac­ter je­juni bac­te­ria.

As part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, state DHS of­fi­cials in­ter­viewed all of the foot­ball team mem­bers and coach­ing staff to as­sess ill­nesses and ask ques­tions about ac­tiv­i­ties, foods, wa­ter sources and pos­si­ble causes of the ill­ness. They dis­cov­ered the con­sump­tion of raw milk was the only com­mon­al­ity among them that could cause the ill­ness.

The team meal and drinks were pro­vided by a group of team par­ents, said Karla Win­nekins. Win­nekins said her daugh­ter was not aware that the milk she was drink­ing was raw milk.

“Our daugh­ter said, had she known it was raw milk, she would not have drank it,” Win­nekins said.

Karla Win­nekins is more pointed in her opin­ion of whether raw milk should have been avail­able at the team func­tion.

While this is the first time stu­dents and coaches as­so­ci­ated with the Du­rand foot­ball team have got­ten sick from drink­ing raw milk, Win­nekins said this is likely not the first time raw milk has been served at a team din­ner.

“It’s scary,” Win­nekins said. “I’ve read the good about raw milk, and I’ve read the bad. But just be­cause some­thing has been done in the past and it has turned out OK doesn’t make it right.”