Campylobacter Campaign Shows Encouraging Signs

NEW ZEALAND - New Zealand poultry industry campaign against Campylobacter shows encouraging signs.
calendar icon 18 June 2007
clock icon 4 minute read
The New Zealand Poultry industry says small drops in the number of reported cases of human Campylobacter, is an encouraging sign and indicates the industry’s extensive science and research programme undertaken with New Zealand Food Safety Authority and ESR is on the right track.

Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand Executive Director Michael Brooks says however, that is still very early days and the industry is committed to the long term campaign.

Poultry producers have spent months reviewing and refining their procedures following last year’s rise in the number of human Campylobacter cases in New Zealand.

Uncooked chicken meat is one of a number of sources of human Campylobacter. The food poisoning bacteria also spreads through contact with domestic pets, cattle, birds and untreated water.

Mr Brooks says in mid 2006 the industry responded to consumer concerns by launching a comprehensive 6-month plan of action focused mainly on meat processing.

The aim was to minimise the levels of campylobacter on poultry and to determine whether factors beyond the industry’s control are also contributing to the high rates of illness among New Zealanders.

To combat Campylobacter the industry has adopted a science-based risk management approach. The new initiatives now operating within the industry include:
  • Trialling new processing interventions in a bid to reduce Campylobacter levels on carcasses.
  • Employing an independent consultant to review and recommend changes to current processing plant practices, a number of which are already in place.
  • A major research programme to review Campylobacter levels on farms as well as in processing facilities.
  • Extensive reviews of on-farm biosecurity practices.
  • A review of food safety information for consumers

Mr Brooks says the industry’s crackdown on Campylobacter has been exhaustive. But the efforts are starting to make an impact.

“From August 2006 to April 2007, the ESR surveillance reports of human cases of Campylobacter have shown month on month reductions (except January) compared to the previous 8 months. However, it is too early to say we have turned the corner. There is still considerable work to be done and we will be working with others both in New Zealand and internationally to resolve this problem which is causing much concern for us, for regulators and consumers.’

The industry believes improved public awareness of the 4Cs – Clean Cook Cover Chill - is necessary to help reduce human infection rates. In particular, thoroughly cooking all poultry meat until the juices run clear is one of the best ways to reduce the risk associated with Campylobacter. Preventing cross contamination of kitchen surfaces and utensils is also important.

Mr Brooks says the industry is encouraged to find its efforts have not been in vain. But whether improvements in the poultry industry alone can bring down New Zealand’s soaring rates of human infection remains to be seen.

“While the industry has deployed processing interventions which have reduced levels of Campylobacter on poultry meat, some research findings indicate that the reasons for human Campylobacter infections are complex and may well not be related solely to poultry processing but other environmental and societal issues.

However we are not shying away from the fact that poultry is one of the main causes of human Campylobacter infection and that’s why solving this problem remains our top priority,” Mr Brooks says.
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