Study on Reducing Campylobacteriosis

NEW ZEALAND - The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) has released five reports on scientific studies and other work completed as part of its strategy to deal with the problem of Campylobacter in the food chain.
calendar icon 15 December 2008
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The reports cover aspects of managing campylobacter across the food chain and include on-farm management practices, information about the effectiveness of freezing and leak-proof packaging, consumer issues, and determining the source of campylobacter. NZFSA’s Campylobacter Risk Management Strategy has also been updated.

Judi Lee, NZFSA Principal Adviser (Risk Management) says NZFSA and the poultry industry together with suppliers and retailers, have made considerable progress. Systems and interventions have been put in place to reduce the numbers of Campylobacter bacteria that make it through the food chain into kitchens and cause illness for consumers. “The revised strategy notes this effort and the changes that have been made. It also updates the status of current research and provides indicative timelines for future projects. We’ve said from the start of this project, there is no silver bullet to reduce the incidence of Campylobacter but developments to date are encouraging” said Ms Lee.

“Solving the problem isn’t simple, but NZFSA aims to achieve a 50% reduction in foodborne campylobacteriosis by 2012 through a range of measures across the food chain, from stricter controls on farm through to increased awareness of food safety issues for consumers.

The Campylobacter Risk Management Strategy spells out an ongoing programme, which is reviewed each year in response to latest research and new information. NZFSA is working in partnership with industry to develop solutions to reduce the risk Campylobacter poses to human health.

New science to better understand the complex nature of the problem is a key component. The five reports released today cover consumer issues, source attribution, on-farm management practices, the effectiveness of freezing and leak-proof packaging.

Key findings are:

  • Poultry is confirmed as the number one source of campylobacteriosis. A hazard reduction programme aimed at significantly decreasing contamination of fresh poultry meat has the potential to at least halve the number of reported cases of human campylobacteriosis.

  • Freezing is one possible intervention - it reduces but does not eliminate Campylobacter. Most New Zealand consumers reportedly prefer to purchase fresh poultry meat and around 70 per cent of consumers purchase half or more of their poultry meat fresh. However, nearly 70 per cent of those consumers also freeze over half of this poultry meat in the home.

  • Leak-proof packaging minimises risk from cross-contamination until the pack is opened. A reduction in foodborne risk is still dependent on good hygienic practices by consumers during handling and preparation of the product.

  • Consumers prefer control measures early in the food chain (on farm). Of the consumers surveyed, 89 per cent thought chicken was the primary cause of illness. Of those surveyed, there appears to be an increase in the practice of thawing chicken in the refrigerator opposed to the kitchen bench as a result of heightened awareness of chicken-related food safety issues.

  • Most of the recommendations to improve on-farm biosecurity have already been addressed since the release of the NZFSA/Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand Biosecurity Manual in March this year. Control measures have been implemented and will continue to come under scrutiny with an in-depth review planned for 2009.

“These reports from the ‘Campylobacter Risk Management Strategy’ will help NZFSA in applying its risk management framework to some key areas of interest,” says Ms Lee.

The updated Campylobacter Risk Management Strategy details further work already underway or planned to start over the next 12 months and is available on the NZFSA web site. The full reports are also available along with NZFSA’s Science Interpretative Summaries.

The reports released today were commissioned by NZFSA and conducted by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd (ESR) and Massey University.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on Campylobacter Infection by clicking here.
- You can view the full report by clicking here.
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