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The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) yearlong study into Campylobacter in chicken has reported that 73% of birds test positive for the infection.
Paul Wigley, Professor of Avian Infection and Immunity at the University of Liverpool, said: “The results of the FSA study are of little surprise. Campylobacter infection is endemic in chicken production and similar levels are found in other EU countries with large poultry industries.
“Although the FSA and poultry producers take the problem seriously, the biology of this bug makes its control extremely difficult. Whilst a few hundred bacteria can make someone ill, chickens may carry many millions of the bug with relatively little disease.
“Our understanding of the behaviour of the bacterium in the environment and how its spreads into chicken production are poorly understood and despite its importance we know surprisingly little of how it behaves in the chicken.
“The controls that have been very successful in reducing Salmonella levels in chicken including good hygiene practice and biosecurity are less effective for Campylobacter. Most importantly we do not have a vaccine for Campylobacter, something which has been key to the reduction of Salmonella in chicken production over the last 20 years.
“We clearly know the extent of the problem and that the bug is common in all forms of chicken production including organic and free range production. Whilst some of the solutions, such as surface chilling, may be beneficial in the short term, longer term we need investment in more effective controls, such as vaccines.
“In the meantime the advice on handling and cooking poultry from FSA should be followed to reduce the risk from this nasty bug.”
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