100 sick from Campylobacter in Iceland over past year

It wasn’t virtual, it was real (messy).

campy.chickenThe Directorate of Health says it has had to deal with a virtual explosion of diarrhea cases caused by Campylobacter.

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) said that they could not definitively draw a connection between Icelandic chickens and the outbreak, nor could they rule it out. They pointed out that according to their findings, the incidence of Campylobacter in chickens has not significantly spiked upwards.

The Directorate of Health cautions the public to cook all meat thoroughly and to keep surfaces and hands clean during and after cooking, as well as to use clean water.

Open letter to the FSA on the publication of Campylobacter survey results

Richard Lloyd of Which? a UK consumer organization, writes to the UK Food Standards Agency to say:

chicken.thermI am writing to express our grave concern about the proposal being put to the FSA Board to withhold information about the levels of the deadly food poisoning bacteria Campylobacter in supermarket chickens. Campylobacter is a major public health issue. 72,000 people were reported to have suffered Campylobacter food poisoning last year and it kills an estimated 100 people every year.

As you know, the main source for the bacteria is in raw chicken which is why the FSA decided to undertake testing across supermarkets, butchers and convenience stores and publish the results on a quarterly basis with information by retailer and processor.

The publication of the performance of each retailer is in the public interest. The FSA should not sit on this survey data which it initially intended to publish in full.

The FSA was set up because of concerns about commercial and political interference in decisions about food safety. It is with great regret that it has become necessary to remind you of your role to put consumers first, be independent and operate transparently.

At your board meeting today, I urge you to reject the proposal to withhold this information and instead to publish the results in full on a quarterly basis in order to provide consumers with this important information and help to drive up standards.

Just market food safety at retail, government is hopeless: FSA plan to name and shame supermarkets selling Campylobacter chicken ditched after pressure from retailers

Maybe there’s something lost in translation; I’m barely starting to understand Australian.

chickenBut if I read this right, the piping hot UK Food Standards Agency has put retail over public health after scrapping plans to regularly name and shame supermarkets selling chicken contaminated with Campylobacter.

Lots of chuckles next time FSA proclaims they are a science-based agency.

According to the Daily Mail, FSA had promised to carry out regular surveys of chicken sold on the high street and publish the results, including the names of the stores, every three months.

The idea was that the public naming and shaming exercise would put pressure on the stores to clean up their chicken and reduce the food poisoning risk to customers.

However, the officials at the watchdog now want to scrap this idea and instead only publish data on the number of birds that are contaminated without identifying the stores involved.

The move has been condemned by a leading academic, who suggested it was driven by pressure from the industry and Government departments, who are keen support supermarkets, farmers and processors.

chicken.thermThe changes represent a major victory for the commercial interests of the big retailers, putting concerns for their sales and profits ahead of consumer safety and their right to know what they are eating.

The fact that the supermarkets have managed to water down the scheme is just the latest evidence as to how lobbying by big business has driven a change in official policy on food and health issues.

Similar lobbying killed off a plan for a blanket ban on junk food snacks and drinks from displays around supermarket check-outs.

The FSA recently revealed that more than one million people are falling victim to food poisoning every year with supermarket chicken named as the greatest threat.

Campylobacter, which is most often found on raw chicken, is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the country.

An official study published in 2009 revealed that two in three of all fresh chicken on shelves was contaminated with campylobacter. More than one in four – 27 per cent – were classed as being highly contaminated.

Despite the fact the FSA has asked supermarkets and farmers to make combatting campylobacter a top priority, the situation appears to have shown no improvement since then.

An FSA paper on the food poisoning caused by campylobacter warned: ‘In addition to the attendant economic costs, cases cause inconvenience, discomfort and misery to those who become infected and a small proportion of cases result in death or long-term consequences, such as reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and Guillain-Barré syndrome, the latter of which affects the peripheral nervous system.’

Despite the clear threat, the FSA’s executives are now asking its board to redraw the rules for its surveys to ensure the stores selling contaminated chicken are not identified in its quarterly results.

A paper prepared by officials states this is in response to ‘legitimate concerns expressed by the industry and other government departments’. The references to other departments relates to the food and farming department, DEFRA, which sees itself as a champion of British farmers, including those producing chicken.

The FSA paper states: ‘In the last update to the Board in March 2014 it was stated that the FSA intended to release the full results, including the names of the retailers and processors, of testing of around 1,000 samples every 3 months during the survey, with the first results published around June/July 2014.’

However, it says it has now decided to change this approach because there is a risk the results will be incomplete and misleading and it would – in some way – be unfair to the stores.

The FSA said: ‘One of the drawbacks of this approach is that no interpretation can properly be placed on interim raw data until the full year’s sampling is complete and fully analysed.

The watchdog’s board is being asked to approve this new approach at a meeting tomorrow.

Erik Millstone, the Professor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex, condemned the move to let the supermarkets off the hook.

Barbecue alert after spike in UK Campylobacter food poisoning

I’m tired of the summer BBQ rhetoric. I lived in Canada and BBQed throughout the winter.

The risk isn’t that more people are BBQing, it’s that livestock have higher levels of pathogens in warmer weather.

ben-newBut way to blame consumers.

More than 1,000 people have become ill with vomiting and diarrhea in five weeks – up 27 per cent on the average figure for the same period over the past three years.

Experts are reminding barbecue lovers about the importance of handling and cooking chicken properly following the surge in illness cause by the campylobacter bacteria.

These UK experts don’t know shit; probably the same ones who say cook until piping hot.

NHS Scotland laboratories have confirmed a total of 1,073 infections with Campylobacter but, as not all patients will have contacted the health service for advice, the actual number of people who have developed symptoms is likely to be higher.

Holiday hot pot with chicken linked to Campylobacter spike in Switzerland

In Switzerland, 7,000-8,000 people fall ill with a Campylobacter infection annually. An increase of campylobacteriosis case numbers is being observed throughout Europe. Human cases of campylobacteriosis must be reported to the relevant authorities in Switzerland.

Fondue chinoiseIn Switzerland, an unusual increase in campylobacteriosis case numbers can be observed in the period around Christmas and New Year. Therefore, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, in agreement with the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office has commissioned Swiss TPH to perform a case control study in order to investigate this increase over the festive season.

“We are relying on data subject to reporting and telephone interviews with affected persons for this”, study leader Daniel Mäusezahl of Swiss TPH says.

The researchers interviewed affected persons who had fallen ill with a campylobacter infection between December 2012 and February 2013. An independent laboratory examination had confirmed a campylobacter infection in all interviewed persons. The focus of the interviews was on risk factors, the consultation of a doctor and the course of the illness experienced by the affected persons.

The study identified two factors for an increased risk of infection with Campylobacter pathogens. The risk of infection increased by a factor of four when consuming Fondue chinoise. About half of the notified campylobacteriosis cases over the Christmas and New Year period can be attributed to this source of infection.

The study also shows that the risk of infection can be decreased by hygienic measures at the table. As soon as the meat fondue consumers used compartmented or separate plates for raw and cooked meat, the risk of an infection decreased by a factor of up to five. Likewise, the risk of an infection decreased when consuming meat that had been previously frozen. “Campylobacter infections among consumers could be avoided to a large extent by employing the appropriate hygiene behaviour measures”, Daniel Mäusezahl says.

Philipp J. Bless, Claudia Schmutz, Kathrin Suter, Marianne Jost, Jan Hattendorf, Mirjam Mäusezahl-Feuz, Daniel Mäusezahl. A tradition and an epidemic: Determinants of the campylobacteriosis winter peak in Switzerland. European Journal of Epidemiology, DOI: 10.1007/s10654-014-9917-0

Not just hitching a ride; Campylobacter jejuni can cause disease in some breeds of chickens

Contrary to popular belief, the foodborne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni is not a harmless commensal in chickens but can cause disease in some breeds of poultry according to research published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

campy.chicken“The main implication is that Campylobacter is not always harmless to chickens. This rather changes our view of the biology of this nasty little bug,” says Paul Wigley of Institute for Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool, an author on the study.

Campylobacter jejuni is the most frequent cause of foodborne bacterial gastroenteritis in the world and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate it affects approximately 1.3 million people per year in the United States. Chicken is the most common source of infections. Infection of chickens had previously not been considered to cause disease and the bacteria were thought to be part of the normal microbiota of the birds.

In the study, Wigley and his colleagues experimentally infected birds from four commercial breeds of broiler chickens. They found that while levels of the bacteria in the intestines did not differ by breed, immune response and inflammation did, to the extent that one breed showed damage to the gut mucosa and developed diarrhea.

“Interestingly the breeds did not differ in the levels of bacteria we found in their intestines after infection, even when kept to normal slaughter age,” says Wigley. “This suggests that chicken breed has little direct effect on the risk of Campylobacter entering the food chain but has a big effect on the health of the birds.”

The most important finding, says Wigley, is that Campylobacter infection directly impacts broiler chicken health and welfare. The United States produces over 8 billion broiler chickens per year and the United Kingdom produces nearly a billion. As Campylobacter is common, or even endemic, in these industries then the scale of the impact on animal health is clear to see.

“On the positive side, we now know that chickens produce a robust immune response to infection, which in the longer term may allow us to develop vaccines,” says Wigley.

Go beyond piping hot? new UK food poisoning figures published

New research published by the Food Standards Agency gives the most detailed picture yet of how many people suffer from food poisoning in the UK every year and how much food poisoning can be attributed to different foods.

Ministry-Silly-WalksThe findings are important as official data for food poisoning cases significantly under-estimates how big the problem is, as only the most serious cases get reported. Most people do not seek treatment from their GP, and not all GPs carry out tests for specific pathogens, so these unreported cases are not captured in routine surveillance data.

The data from this study, coupled with data from official statistics, refines our previous estimates of the real burden of foodborne disease and so will help focus efforts to reduce levels of food poisoning in the UK.

The study found that:

There are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. This figure would more than double if it included food poisoning cases from unknown pathogens.

Campylobacter was the most common foodborne pathogen, with about 280,000 cases every year.

The next most common pathogen was Clostridium perfringens with 80,000 cases, and norovirus was third with an estimated 74,000 cases.

Salmonella is the pathogen that causes the most hospital admissions – about 2,500 each year.

Poultry meat was the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year.

After poultry, produce including vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, caused the second highest number of cases of illness (an estimated 48,000 cases), while beef and lamb were third (an estimated 43,000 cases).

The researchers were able to identify about half a million cases of food poisoning every year attributable to 13 specific pathogens. However, 10 million cases of infectious intestinal disease (IID) a year are not yet attributed to a specific pathogen. If these cases had similar rates attributable to food then this would bring the overall figure to in excess of a million cases a year.

Professor Sarah O’Brien, the study’s lead researcher from the University of Liverpool, said: ‘These findings will help the FSA to target its resources more effectively in tackling food poisoning. They confirm that the FSA is right to put campylobacter at the top of its priority list. It is the biggest food safety problem we have and more needs to be done to tackle it.’

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said: ‘This study is a very important part of the research we fund to increase our knowledge of food safety and the risks that all of us are exposed to. Reduction of campylobacter is our top food safety priority, and that is borne out by this research. We recently revised our campylobacter strategy and we, in collaboration with industry, must now push on to find the solutions that will stop so many people getting ill.’

The research is an extension of the IID2 study, published in September 2011, which estimated the numbers of cases of IID in the UK. The IID2 extension was commissioned by the FSA to use the data generated from the IID2 study, and other sources, to estimate the burden of foodborne disease in the UK.

It’s steaming hot, like road apples? How is that scientific? Campy campaign fails

While the Brits are busy congratulating themselves on their Campylobacter reduction campaign, the following video from the UK Food Standards Agency crossed my computer.


How can any agency talk science-based, while ignoring the science in public advice about cooking chicken.

And these elaborate videos ain’t cheap.

Way to be duped, British taxpayers.

“The only way to kill germs is to cook chicken thoroughly, making sure it’s steaming hot in the middle.

I’ll go with the Hip.

What about thermometers and piping hot? UK FSA says stop washing that chicken and stop touching yourself

The UK Food Standards Agency has issued a call for people to stop washing raw chicken to reduce the risk of contracting Campylobacter, a potentially dangerous form of food poisoning.

chicken.thermThe call comes as new figures show that 44% of people always wash chicken before cooking it – a practice that can spread Campylobacter bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment through the splashing of water droplets.

Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year. Around four in five of these cases come from contaminated poultry.

As part of the call – which comes at the start of this year’s Food Safety Week – the FSA has written to production companies that make food programmes, asking them to ensure that people aren’t shown washing raw chicken on TV. The letter, which can be found via the link towards the bottom of this page, has been co-signed by all of the major food retailers.

FSA Chief Executive, Catherine Brown, said: ‘Although people tend to follow recommended practice when handling poultry, such as washing hands after touching raw chicken and making sure it is thoroughly cooked, our research has found that washing raw chicken is also common practice. That’s why we’re calling on people to stop washing raw chicken and also raising awareness of the risks of contracting campylobacter as a result of cross-contamination.

The most cited reasons people gave for washing chicken were the removal of dirt (36%), getting rid of germs (36%) and that that they had always done it (33%).

Ann Edwards, 67, from Hertfordshire contracted campylobacter in 1997 and is still living with the consequences today. She said: ‘After contracting campylobacter poisoning, I was ill for a week before being admitted to hospital with bladder failure. I couldn’t eat and was so de-hydrated that I lost almost two stones in weight. Shortly after, I developed Guillain-Barré syndrome which left me paralysed from the chest down. I was in hospital for seven weeks and even now – 17 years later – I have no movement in my toes and rely on a walking stick. Physically, it has been the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I urge anyone who is handling chicken to take care and follow the advice given by the Food Standards Agency.’

For more information on the FSA’s campylobacter campaign, and for guidance on the safest way to handle chicken, visit food.gov.uk/chicken

For more information on the FSA’s strategy to tackle campylobacter, visitfood.gov.uk/actnow.

Playing chicken with Campylobacter

Campylobacter jejuni is the most common agent of food poisoning in industrialized nations. Professor Gary Dykes’ team at Monash University is trying to understand how it not only survives, but how it persists under conditions that should kill it.

FunkyChickenHiThe various species of Campylobacter – 18 have been described to date – are delicate organisms that colonize the intestines of livestock species and live harmlessly as members of their commensal gut flora. Dykes says they are very fastidious in their requirements for survival and growth.

How, then, do they manage to survive and multiply outside the host animal’s body, despite the use of chemical and physical measures to prevent contamination as meat moves through the food-processing chain from the slaughterhouse to the kitchen?

In industrialized nations, Campylobacter food poisoning occurs at an annual rate of between 20 and 150 cases per 100,000 people. Most human infections involve C. jejuni, a commensal species in chickens that survives in raw and undercooked chicken.

Dykes and his colleagues at Monash University have been trying to determine how Campylobacter manages to attach and survive on exposed food processing surfaces and uncooked meat after animals are slaughtered. All this without succumbing to conditions that are unfavourable for them, such as the high levels of oxygen in air.

He says Campylobacter thrives in an environment that contains less than 5% oxygen – well below the natural 20.95% concentration in air.

Paradoxically, despite its preference for living in the warmth of the intestinal tract, Campylobacter struggles to survive at temperatures higher than 20° Celsius outside the body.

In a recent review paper – ‘Campylobacter and Biofilms’ – Dykes and Amy Huei Teen Teh, from Monash University’s Malaysian campus, reviewed research into the microbe’s ability to form biofilms.

They say that while some studies have shown that C. jejuni does form single-species biofilms on abiotic surfaces in the laboratory, not all strains do so, and some of the biofilms are in the form of aggregated cells, pellicles or flocs that are unlikely to occur on food-processing surfaces in poultry processing plants.

Fresh_Frozen_Chicken_BreastMoreover, most studies have been conducted under static conditions at very low oxygen levels, which do not represent real-world conditions in poultry processing plants.

The few studies made of the microbes under flow conditions have failed to demonstrate that it can form monospecific biofilms under such conditions, and pre-formed monospecific biofilms do not persist at higher flow rates.

Dykes and Teh suggest the fragility of monospecific biofilms of C. jejuni means they are unlikely to be present in poultry plants, where the atmosphere is aerobic and the cells are exposed to high shear forces.

The persistence of the species through the poultry processing chain may thus rest on the species’ ability to form mixed biofilms with other species in the processing environment – studies have shown that such mixed-species biofilms can persist under higher flow conditions than monospecific biofilms of C. jejuni.

They concluded that it is important to understand the mechanisms that contribute to the formation of complex biofilms containing C. jejuni under real-world conditions in processing plants – particularly its interactions with other biofilm-forming species.