While all of us have already heard of salmonella and E.coli, TÜV SÜD's current consumer survey shows that the general public is largely unaware of Campylobacter, the number one food pathogen. TÜV SÜD's food experts explain how Campylobacter spreads and how to avoid food poisoning.
73,999 cases of campylobacteriosis were reported in Germany in 2016, while the number of salmonella infections reported in the same period amounted to 12,962. Bacterial pathogens of the Campylobacter species can be found worldwide. They are infectious and must be reported under the German Infection Protection Act (IfSG). The key symptoms of Campylobacter infections are diarrhoea, severe abdominal pain and fever. In Germany, Campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial intestinal infections. “However, the general public knows very little about this most common cause of food poisoning”, says Dr Andreas Daxenberger, food expert at TÜV SÜD. Surprisingly, a survey on the awareness of food-borne pathogens showed that 64 per cent of respondents were unaware of Campylobacter. By contrast, salmonella was unknown to only seven percent of those surveyed.
45 percent of consumers interviewed believed salmonella to be the leading cause of bacterial food poisoning, while only one percent of those surveyed knew that in fact Campylobacter bacteria are the number one food pathogen.
Campylobacter can be spread from person to person by the faecal-oral route. As even small numbers of pathogens cause infections, person-to-person transmission is relatively frequent, especially among children and young adults. However, the primary transmission route is via food products. In contrast to salmonella, Campylobacter bacteria do not multiply automatically on food. However, they are relatively stable in heat. The primary source of transmission is from traces of animal faeces on animal food products. Campylobacter infections are mostly caused by poultry and poultry products, unpasteurised milk, raw minced meat and contact with pets.
“At the level of animal production and food processing, preventive actions to reduce Campylobacter in slaughter poultry and strict compliance with mandatory hygiene standards during slaughtering are imperative”, emphasises Daxenberger. Consumers can reduce Campylobacter transmission by washing hands and kitchen appliances, in particular after contact with critical items, including sensitive foods, babies’ nappies and contact with animal faeces, but also used equipment and private kitchen worktops. Consumers can also significantly reduce the transmission hazards of Campylobacter and other bacteria by thoroughly cooking poultry and by carefully separating processes that involve the handling of raw meat from other processes.
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