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Campylobacter found in majority of UK chicken: But what is it?

Campylobacter found in majority of UK chicken: But what is it?

29 May, 2015

The Food Standards Agency has revealed that 73 per cent of fresh chicken tested positive for the food poisoning bug campylobacter last year. More than 4,000 samples from large retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers were tested by the FSA. The year-long study revealed that all major retailers failed to meet targets for reducing the levels of bacteria present in whole chilled chickens and their packaging, the BBC reports. Asda had the highest level of contamination, while Tesco recorded the lowest. Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Morrisons and the Co-operative have all seen levels fall since the study ended in February. What is campylobacter? It is the most common food poisoning bug in the UK, affecting 280,000 people every year. The bacteria are typically found in uncooked meat – particularly poultry - as well as unpasteurised milk and untreated water. Campylobacter spreads easily and has a low infective dose, which means only a few bacteria in a piece of undercooked chicken can cause illness, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) warns. The disease causes more than 100 deaths a year and costs the UK economy about £900m. How serious is it? Most people suffer from diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and nausea, with symptoms typically lasting up to a week. Some people, however, show no symptoms. Infections are usually mild, but can be fatal among very young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, according to the World Health Organization. What is the treatment? Most people recover from food poisoning without any specific treatment, but are encouraged to keep well hydrated and rest. Antimicrobial therapy can be prescribed for those with serious illness. How can you avoid it? The bacteria can be killed off by thoroughly heating and cooking food, freezing also reduces the number of campylobacter bacteria present on raw meat. The FSA advices people to follow basic food hygiene standards when storing and handling raw meat, including washing hands and avoiding cross-contamination in the kitchen. Back to News & Events
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