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Campylobacter Needn’t Be For Christmas

15 December 2015

Mike Williams, Senior Consultant with food safety specialists STS goes back to basics and looks at the causes of contracting Campylobacter and the methods that can be put in place to prevent customers contracting the bacterium, with the warning “Don’t invite Campylobacter to the table this Christmas.”

During December, the UK will serve more turkey than at any other time in the calendar, which in total sees over 10 million turkeys consumed in the UK each year. Campylobacter, a virulent food borne pathogen, is responsible for over 280,000 cases of food poisoning in the UK each year and accounts for around 100 directly related deaths commonly linked to poultry; potentially making Christmas a very dangerous time of the year.

With four in five cases of contamination coming from poultry, in early 2015 the FSA launched a campaign to reduce the number of cases of Campylobacter contracted in the UK. With between 70% and 80% of all poultry contaminated with the bacteria, reducing the numbers of the most highly contaminated birds will reduce risk by around 50%. Furthermore, by ensuring food businesses take steps to reduce the risks, a large proportion of the public will be protected from a painful form of food poisoning, which costs the UK economy over £900 million each year. 

Mike Williams from STS comments: “The risks associated with contracting Campylobacter are not new and nor are the steps needed to prevent contamination. At this time of year kitchens are stretched to limits, with larger volumes of dishes being prepared and with an influx of temporary staff who may not have the correct level of training, simple ‘back to basic’ steps can be put in place to ensure diners are kept safe.”

Hygiene – One of the most fundamental forms of prevention is personal hygiene. Dirty hands contaminate food. Ensure food handlers wash their hands before handling, preparing, or serving food; before handling clean utensils and crockery; or after using the bathroom and after smoking, eating or drinking and of course after handling raw chicken or turkey.

Cross Contamination – Ensure that raw poultry is always kept separate from ready to eat foods – store it below or separately from other food in the fridge and make use of the correct colour coded chopping board during preparation.

Defrosting – Defrost meat and poultry in the refrigerator on a low shelf and in a wide pan to collect the defrost liquor. Do not let food drips land on other food stuffs.

Cooking – Ensure foods are cooked to the correct core temperatures. In poultry, cook until the juices run clear and never cook poultry ‘pink’. One big mistake many make is cooking the ‘stuffing’ inside the bird which actually prevents the bird cooking all the way through.
Leftovers – Never leave poultry out at room temperature during preparation or after cooking. Cool turkey leftovers rapidly and refrigerate as soon as possible. 

Banqueting – One tradition on any Christmas banqueting menu is chicken liver pate. If made in the kitchen it is imperative that the chicken livers are fully cooked to the correct temperature and are not left ‘pink’ during the preparation.

“Taking note of these simple steps will ensure we all have a very happy Christmas enjoying the festive season by eating, drinking and being merry without a trip to doctors,” concludes Mike Williams.

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