It’s not just chicken but UK wants piping hot bang for its intervention dollar: Campy results released

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has today published the latest set of results from its year-long survey of campylobacter on fresh chickens. Campylobacter is a food bug mainly found on raw poultry and is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK.

chickenThe results are published for the first time as Official Statistics and the full report can be found via the link on this page. Cumulative results for samples taken between February and November 2014 have now been published, including results presented by major retailer.

The results to date show:

19% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination.*

73% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter.

7% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter. Only three out of more than 3,000 samples of packaging tested positive at the highest band of contamination.

*More than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (>1,000 cfu/g). These units indicate the degree of contamination on each sample.

More than 3,000 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens and packaging have now been tested. Data continue to show variations between the retailers but none is meeting the target for reducing campylobacter (see table below).

The FSA’s 12-month survey, running from February 2014 to February 2015, will test around 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers. The full set of results is expected to be published in May.

The FSA has welcomed the publication by M&S of a case-study showing the results from the retailer’s recently implemented five-point intervention plan to reduce campylobacter on its chickens. The preliminary results published by M&S indicate a significant reduction in the number of the most highly contaminated birds.

Steve Wearne, FSA Director of Policy, said: ‘We now know it is possible to make positive inroads in the reduction of campylobacter. Figures released today by M&S show that their intervention plan has resulted in fewer contaminated chickens on sale in their stores. If one retailer can achieve this campylobacter reduction through systematic interventions then others can, and should.

‘Our survey is putting pressure on retailers to work with poultry processors to do more to tackle campylobacter. We want the industry to reduce the number of the most highly contaminated chickens as we know this will have the greatest impact on public health.

‘Campylobacter is killed by thorough cooking, but it should not be left to consumers to manage the risk.’

Is M&S Marks and Spencer or something else?



Retailer Number of
% skin samples positive for campylobacter (95% confidence interval) % skin samples
>1,000 cfu/g campylobacter (95% confidence interval)
% pack samples positive for campylobacter (95% confidence interval)
Asda 491 78.9  (75.2 – 82.4) 31.1  (27.0 – 35.2) 13.0  (10.1 – 16.1)
Co-op 274 75.6  (70.2 – 80.6) 16.4  (12.3 – 20.9) 4.4  (2.1 – 7.0)
M&S 103 72.2  (63.0 – 80.7) 20.7  (13.0 – 29.1) 3.8  (0.8 – 8.1)
Morrison’s 271 76.2  (71.4 – 80.9) 22.9  (18.0 – 28.0) 13.3  (9.5 – 17.4)
Sainsbury’s 451 69.6  (65.4 – 73.7) 14.3  (11.2 – 17.6) 4.0  (2.3 – 6.0)
Tesco 925 68.2  (65.3 – 71.1) 12.3  (10.2 – 14.4) 4.1  (2.9 -5.4)
Waitrose 96 71.7  (62.1 – 80.5) 15.6  (8.5 – 23.7) 6.2  (2.1 – 11.7)
Others[1] 450 76.9  (72.9 – 80.7) 23.2  (19.4 – 27.2) 6.8  (4.6 – 9.2)
Total 3,061 72.9 (71.4 -74.5) 18.9 (17.5 – 20.3) 6.8 (5.9 – 7.7)


[1] The ‘Others’ category includes supermarkets where the market share was deemed small using the 2010 Kantar data: eg Lidl, Aldi, Iceland, plus convenience stores, independents, butchers etc.

32 sickened with Campy: Wisconsin raw milk farm penalized in Durand High School case

This is why I pay attention when food is served at the kid’s school.

And I’ve already pissed off a bunch of parents because of my food-safety based draconian and silly requirements for canning and cooking.

doug.braun.sorenne.capitalsThe owners of a Wisconsin dairy farm, who supplied unpasteurized milk to the Durand High School football team this fall causing dozens of students and faculty to become violently ill from Campylobacter bacteria, have agreed to a set of penalties for their role in the outbreak.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday that Roland and Diana Reed of Arkansaw have agreed to a plan that includes suspending the farm’s Grade A permit for 30 days.
The agency says if the farm violates any of the conditions of the agreement within three years, the Grade A permit will be suspended again for 150 days for the current violation and their Grade A permit will be revoked for no less than six months for the additional violation.

“After reviewing the circumstances described in the final DHS epidemiological and laboratory report, we have determined that the farm violated current statutes and rules by distributing unpasteurized milk in an unauthorized manner, so we are taking appropriate action,” said Dr. Steve Ingham, administrator of the Division of Food Safety for DATCP.

Outbreaks from raw milk on the rise in US

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that outbreaks caused by raw milk increased over a six-year period, according to a newly released CDC study. The study reviewed outbreaks caused by raw milk–milk that has not been pasteurized to kill disease-causing germs–in the United States that were reported to CDC from 2007-2012. The study analyzed the number of outbreaks, the legal status of raw milk sales in each state, and the number of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths associated with these outbreaks.

colbert.raw.milkMore states are legalizing the sale of raw milk even though this leads to an increase in the number outbreaks.

Findings also showed that the number of states that have legalized the sale of raw milk has also increased. In 2004, there were 22 states where the sale of raw milk was legal in some form; however, this number increased to 30 in 2011. Eighty-one percent of outbreaks were reported in states where the sale of raw milk was legal.

Children were at the highest risk for illness from raw milk. About sixty percent of outbreaks involved at least one child younger than five years of age.

 Raw milk is a risk for human health.

You cannot look at, smell, or taste raw milk to determine if it is safe. Cows and other animals can appear healthy and clean, but can still have germs, like Salmonella and E. coli, which can cause illnesses in humans.

Milk cannot be collected without introducing some bacteria– even under ideal conditions of cleanliness. Unless the milk is pasteurized, these bacteria can multiply.

Even raw milk supplied by “certified,” “organic,” or “local” dairies has no guarantee of being safe. Raw milk from grass-fed animals is not considered safe either. 



Campy in NZ: Just cook it still don’t cut it

The New Zealand Government is, according to the Herald, reviewing what a public health expert calls disgraceful levels of a dangerous bacteria in chicken.

campy.chickenNearly a third of carcasses examined as part of the Ministry of Primary Industries’ testing regime in the first half of last year were contaminated by campylobacter, the most common cause of foodborne illness in New Zealand, documents released under the Official Information Act reveal.

That is down from almost half of those tested in 2007, when new regulations were introduced to control the bug. But Otago University Public Health professor Michael Baker said the contamination levels were unacceptable.

“The industry has always argued that, ‘well, the consumer’s got to be responsible and cook it properly’, but most people don’t realize that raw chicken is about the most hazardous thing you can bring into your kitchen,” he told the Herald on Sunday.

“Most foods have bacteria on them, that’s just a fact of life. But there are some pathogens that we can’t cope with and campylobacter is one of them.”

Health ministry figures showed at least 6,837 people suffered from the illness in 2013. It also results in several deaths most years.

Former Green Party co-leader Rod Donald died in November 2005 of a heart infection after a bout of campylobacter. The source of the food poisoning was never proven.

Ministry for Primary Industries’ production and processing manager Sharon Wagener confirmed the department was reviewing chicken processing regulations to see what improvements could be made.

Wagener pointed out that the bacteria were easily killed by correct cooking so people had nothing to worry about if they cooked the meat properly.

“We’re not putting the onus totally on the consumer, we’re working with the producers to try to get [campylobacter levels] as low as possible,” she said.

Baker said it was disgraceful that campylobacter was still able to cause such mayhem. The main issue was cross-contamination, for which there were multiple opportunities from slaughter to the dinner table.

“Every week there are thousands of people making mistakes and there will be dozens of cases,” he said.

Although it was impossible to eliminate campylobacter from chicken, there needed to be far lower limits on the number of contaminated chickens and the levels of contamination, Baker said.

Food safety nerds: 2 methods for risk-based microbiological criteria for Campylobacter in broiler meat

Risk-based microbiological criteria can offer a tool to control Campylobacter in the broiler meat production chain.

HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary FukunagaRecently two approaches have been applied to derive such criteria and to analyse their potential impact in terms of human health risk reduction: the risk-based version of the established microbiological criteria approach, that applies a microbiological limit (ML) for sample data, and the Danish “case-by- case” risk assessment approach, that applies a limit for the relative risk estimate (relative risk limit, RRL) based on sample data.

In this study, data sets from Sweden and Denmark are used to compare the performance of the two approaches in terms of efficiency, i.e. the balance between the residual risk after implementation of the criterion and the percentage of non-complying batches, and the attending uncertainty.

The analysis shows that the two approaches are equally efficient, and suggests that the RRL criterion is attended with less uncertainty. The two approaches are compared and their advantages and disadvantages are discussed. Given the uncertainties attending the results of the analysis, more research in terms of data collection, risk assessment and uncertainty analysis would be needed to develop these risk-based criteria further.

Food Control, Volume 53, Pages 177-184

Maarten Nauta, Jens Kirk Andersen, Pirkko Tuominen, Jukka Ranta, Roland Lindqvist

Campy surge in Scotland

More than 6,000 people fell ill as a result of Campylobacter, which is present in raw meat particularly poultry, last year.

andy.murrayInfants and toddlers were among those who suffered the symptoms such as sickness and diarrhea, with a 25 per cent increase in cases recorded among those under the age of four.

In total 6,636 cases were confirmed by NHS laboratories during 2014, a rise of 7.7 per cent compared to the previous year. Experts say the actual number of people likely to have fallen ill will be higher as not everyone who experiences food poisoning contacts the health service for advice.

There were 355 confirmed cases among pre-schoolers in 2014 and 284 in 2013.

At the start of last summer the Food Standards Agency launched a campaign about Campylobacter, saying it was the most common cause of food poisoning even though more people have heard of salmonella and E. coli.

One of their key messages is not to wash raw chicken as splashed droplets can spread the bacteria across hands, clothing, work surfaces and cooking equipment.

It’s in poop: Campylobacter jejuni in urban wild birds and pets in New Zealand

Greater attention has been given to Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni) prevalence in poultry and ruminants as they are regarded as the major contributing reservoirs of human campylobacteriosis., relatively little work has been done to assess the prevalence in urban wild birds and pets in New Zealand, a country with the highest campylobacteriosis notification rates. Therefore, the aim of the study was to assess the faeco-prevalence of C. jejuni in urban wild birds and pets and its temporal trend in the Manawatu region of New Zealand.

Findings: A repeated cross-sectional study was conducted from April 2008 to July 2009, where faecal samples were collected from 906 ducks, 835 starlings, 23 Canadian goose, 2 swans, 2 pied stilts, 498 dogs and 82 cats. The faeco-prevalence of C. jejuni was 20% in ducks, 18% in starlings, 9% in Canadian goose, 5% in dogs and 7% in cats. The faeco-prevalence of C. jejuni was relatively higher during warmer months of the year in ducks, starlings and dogs while starlings showed increased winter prevalence. No such trend could be assessed in Canadian goose, swans, pied stilts and cats as samples could not be collected for the entire study period from these species.

Conclusions: This study estimated the faeco-prevalence of C. jejuni in different animal species where the prevalence was relatively high during warmer months in general. However, there was relative increase in winter prevalence in starlings.

The urban wild bird species and pets may be considered potential risk factors for human campylobacteriosis in New Zealand, particularly in small children.

Faeco-prevalence of Campylobacter jejuni in urban wild birds and pets in New Zealand

BMC Research Notes 2015, 8:1



Campy hasn’t stabilized in Ireland

Within Ireland, the Food Safety Authority (FSAI) today stated that campylobacteriosis continues to be the most commonly reported foodborne illness in Ireland with 10 times more cases of campylobacteriosis being reported than salmonellosis. 

campy.chickenSome 2,288 cases of food poisoning due to Campylobacter were recorded in 2013, compared to over 2,600 in 2014.* The FSAI noted the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) annual figures for foodborne illness published today which suggests that the campylobacteriosis figures across Europe have stabilised, but that is not the experience in Ireland. 

The FSAI states that the figures recorded by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in Ireland are the highest since campylobacteriosis became legally notifiable in 2004 and requires cross industry and consumer responses to be undertaken to tackle the problem.  The FSAI would support setting a microbiological hygiene standard for poultry meat at European level.  This would create a maximum tolerance level for Campylobacter in poultry which could be reviewed over time.  A similar approach was adopted as part of European controls for Salmonella which proved successful.

According to Dr Wayne Anderson, Director of Food Science and Standards, FSAI, salmonellosis was a major issue in Ireland 15 years ago, but due to the efforts of the Irish industry to control and reduce Salmonella contamination in eggs and poultry there has been a radical decrease in its incidence and impact on public health.

 “A similar effort is now required to reduce Campylobacter infections which can be serious and life threatening in vulnerable people. For Salmonella control, regulations were put in place which set a maximum tolerance for Salmonella in raw poultry amongst other controls. There is a need to set similar tolerance levels for Campylobacter and this would drive new control measures throughout the food chain to reduce its occurrence,” he says. “If the industry from producer right through to retailer comes together to put in specific measures to reduce the level of Campylobacter on poultry like it did for Salmonella, it would have a positive impact on the number of people becoming sick,” he said.

But what does it really mean? Campylobacteriosis cases stable, listeriosis cases continue to rise in EU

Campylobacteriosis infections reported in humans have now stabilised, after several years of an increasing trend, but it is still the most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU. Listeriosis and VTEC infections in humans have increased, while reported salmonellosis and yersiniosis cases have decreased. These are some of the key findings of the European Union Summary Report on Trends and Sources of Zoonoses, Zoonotic Agents and Foodborne Outbreaks in 2013.

surveillance“The stabilisation of campylobacteriosis cases and the continuing downward trend of salmonellosis is good news, but we should not lower our guard as reporting of other diseases such as listeriosis and VTEC infections is going up,” says Marta Hugas, Head of Department of EFSA’s Risk Assessment and Scientific Assistance Department, who stresses the importance of monitoring foodborne illnesses in Europe.

Last year’s report showed that human cases of campylobacteriosis decreased slightly for the first time in five years. The 2013 figures have stabilised to the levels reported in 2012. Nevertheless, with  214,779  cases, campylobacteriosis remains the most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU. In food , the causative agent, Campylobacter, is mostly found in chicken meat.

Listeriosis cases increased by 8.6 percent between 2012 and 2013 and have been increasing over the pastfive years. Although the number of confirmed cases is relatively low at 1,763, these are of particular concern as the reported Listeria infections are mostly severe, invasive forms of the disease with higher death rates than for the other foodborne diseases.  “The rise of reported invasive listeriosis cases is of great concern as the infection is acquired mostly from ready-to-eat food and it may lead to death, particularly among the increasing population of elderly people and patients with weakened immunity in Europe”, says Mike Catchpole, the Chief Scientist at ECDC. Despite the rise of listeriosis cases reported in humans, Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium that causes listeriosis in humans and animals, was seldom detected above the legal safety limits in ready-to-eat foods.

Reported cases of verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC) infection rose by 5.9 percent – possibly an effect of increased awareness in Member States following the outbreak in 2011, which translated into better testing and reporting. No trends were observed on the presence of VTEC in food and animals.  

Salmonellosis cases fell for the eighth year in a row, with 82,694 cases –a 7.9 percent decrease in the notification rate compared with 2012. The report attributes the decrease to Salmonella control programmes in poultry and notes that most Member States met their reduction goals for prevalence in poultry for 2013. In fresh poultry meat, compliance with EU Salmonella criteria increased – a signal that Member States’ investments in control measures are working. 

Yersiniosis, the third most commonly reported zoonotic disease in the EU with 6,471 cases, has been decreasing over the past five years and declined by 2.8 percent compared with 2012.  

The EFSA-ECDC report covers 16 zoonoses and foodborne outbreaks. It is based on data collected by 32 European countries (28 Member States and four non-Member States) and helps the European Commission and EU Member States to monitor, control and prevent zoonotic diseases.

Campylobacter: Raw milk from Washington creamery recalled

Some batches of raw milk from the Old Silvana Creamery in Arlington are being recalled out of concern they may be contaminated with Campylobacter.

Old Silvana CreameryThe recall affects raw milk from the farm with expiration dates of Jan. 23 and Jan. 24, according to Jim Sinnema, who manages the farm.

The milk is sold in 15 stores in Western Washington. The creamery produces several hundred gallons of raw milk a week, he said.

The recall, announced Monday evening, was launched after an independent lab discovered Campylobacter in a routine weekly sample sent to a laboratory for testing, Sinnema said. It had an expiration date of Jan. 23. As a precaution, raw milk from Old Silvana Creamery with an expiration date of Jan. 24 also was recalled, Sinnema said.