There is a great deal of work going on to raise awareness of the Campylobacter problem, but what can you do to remove the risk from your home?
FSA statistics suggest that around a third of the UK population could have the misfortune of experiencing campylobacter food poisoning in their lifetime. This figure is based on the current estimate of infection rates, at about 280,000 UK cases a year.
While Salmonella is probably the best known cause of UK bacterial food poisoning it is by no means the most common. That title is held by Campylobacter, a pathogen that can cause stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and even lead to more serious conditions such as reactive arthritis, Guillain Barré syndrome, arthritis and more.
So how can you avoid it?
1. NEVER wash raw chicken – the FSA have been urging the public to stop washing raw chicken for years now and for very good reason. Washing raw chicken can spread campylobacter
2. Disinfect utensils, surfaces and your hands after preparing the chicken – once a surface or utensil has been used to prepare raw chicken, it should not be used for any other food prior to thorough cleaning either in the dishwasher or with an antibacterial cleanser.
3. Ensure that your chicken has reached at least 75°C prior to serving – once removed from the oven you should skewer a thick part of the bird (the breast or thigh) to ensure that the juices run clear. Thermometers are not expensive and can be purchased from supermarkets, kitchen shops and from Hygiene Audit Systems.
4. Store raw chicken away from ready-to-eat foods - chilling raw chicken will not kill Campylobacter and placing raw meat on a higher shelf can make you vulnerable to cross-contamination, e.g. juices from the raw meat dripping onto ready-to-eat food such as cooked ham, pate and cheese.
5. Clean your cloths – kitchen cloths used to clean utensils and surfaces can harbour Campylobacter and spread it around your kitchen if allowed to. Use disposable kitchen cloths or wash on a 60°C+ washing cycle to effectively clean the cloth. Better still, if cleaning up after preparing raw meat or chicken, use paper towel and an anti-bacterial cleaner – that way the bacteria either get killed or go in the bin. And don’t forget – wash your hands thoroughly including your nails after handling chicken – even small numbers of bacteria can infect you.