Campylobacter is a species of bacteria that commonly infects poultry, largely chicken. It is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year.
What are the symptoms of Campylobacter food poisoning?
The resulting illness can develop within two to five days of consumption, causing abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. Most people tend to recover within two to ten days, but in some cases, the damage is long-lasting, or even fatal. It can trigger irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis or Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious condition of the nervous system. It is particularly severe in children under five, older people, or those with an already-weakened immune system.
Despite the severity of the illness it causes, 72% of the general public have not heard of Campylobacter and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says the problem is as bad as ever.
It is therefore important to be aware of the risks from raw poultry and work hard to avoid cross-contamination during handling or from under-cooking. One main cause of cross-contamination of Campylobacter in the kitchen is from washing chicken.
Do not wash chicken.
Cleaning raw chicken, or washing off visible blood, does not make it any more hygienic or remove bacteria – only thorough cooking will achieve this. Splashing water from washing chicken under a tap can spread bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing, cooking equipment, and even RTE foods. Water droplets can travel more than 50cm in every direction and only a few Campylobacter cells are needed to cause food poisoning.
Unfortunately, 44% of the public and 40% of chefs still wash chicken as part of their food preparation.
How to eliminate Campylobacter?
Campylobacter is sensitive to temperature changes and so cooking is the only way to eliminate this bug from the contaminated food and make the chicken safe to eat. The FSA has issued clear guidance on cooking times and temperatures, and we strongly advise adhering to these:
– 65°C for 10 minutes
– 70°C for 2 minutes
– 75°C for 30 seconds
– 80°C for 6 seconds
Check these with your temperature probes, inserting them into the thickest part of the bird.
For any more information, visit the Food Standards Agency website and Acting on Campylobacter Together campaign pages:
You can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any further information.