what is Campylobacter

What You Need To Know About Campylobacter Bacteria

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Campylobacter  jejuni bacteria

Campylobacter jejuni bacteria lives the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals such as poultry. This bacteria is frequently detected within these farmed birds, especially chicken. It is a gram-negative (like E.coli ) spiral-shaped bacterium. Its ideal growth temperature is directly within the temperature danger zone, most optimally at 37°C (99 °F).

What is the cause of Campylobacter jejuni?

Campylobacter bacteria are a comparatively new bacterium on the food safety scene in terms of global attention. It is in fact now known to be one of the four global causes of diarrhoeal diseases. And thus a major contributor to human gastroenteritis. 

The vast majority of cases occur as isolated events, not as part of recognised outbreaks. Raw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurised milk, contaminated water are the most common causes of Campylobacter infections.

Infections in the kitchen can occur from a simple practice of washing chicken in a basin, during preparation and before cooking. Campy bacteria are able to survive in the droplets of water from the washbasin. Meaning that this bacterium presents concerns during washing and defrosting practices. 

So much so, that international food safety specialists insist that you do not wash/rinse your chicken before cooking. Campylobacter bacteria is not usually spread from one person to another. But this can happen if the infected person does not thoroughly wash their hands after using the bathroom or handling raw chicken.  

Check out our article on personal hygiene and handwashing in the kitchen. We have also included a checklist to manage this process.

What disease does Campylobacter cause?

Campylobacter bacteria, and specifically C. jejuni causes a disease known as Campylobacteriosis, which is a food/water-related disease.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The symptoms of Campy infections are like most other bacterial food poisoning and include:

  • Headache.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Diarrhoea may be bloody.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal pain.

These symptoms can usually develop within 2 – 5 days but can take as long as 10 days. Most cases run their course over  2 – 3 days of diarrhoea.

How to prevent Campylobacter bacteria contamination

  • Campy bacteria can be killed by heat and by thorough cooking.
  • The use of good clean as you go procedures, with the use of an appropriate sanitiser would kill this bacterium.
  • Do not wash your raw chicken in the basin before cooking.
  • Keep raw meat and poultry separate from produce and other foods when shopping for and storing groceries.
  • Wash hands, cutting boards, tables, cutlery, and utensils after handling uncooked poultry.
  • Food and kitchen tools and surfaces may become contaminated from raw food products.

However, it is important to prevent such an infection from occurring at the farm level. Chickens are infamous for consuming their own and the flocks faeces, and Campy can spread quickly. The only alternative is to treat feed with antibiotics.

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