The Food Standards Agency (FSA) aims to cut campylobacteriosis by commissioning research to trace the sources of Campylobacter infection – often linked to poultry.
Chicken is recognised as a key reservoir for this pathogen, according to the FSA.
A spokesman for the agency told FoodManufacture.co.uk:“Current evidence indicates that 60 – 80% of human cases of Campylobacter can be attributed to raw poultry meat.
“We would like to monitor this trend over time to determine any changes – which may be linked to reductions in levels of Campylobacter in chicken – and monitor the extent of changes in attribution to other foods.”
To survey those trends, the FSA is inviting tenders to carry out a molecular-based surveillance and research into the sources of UK Campylobacter infections.
“The FSA is hoping to achieve a reduction in the percentage of the most heavily contaminated chickens in the UK from a baseline of 27% in 2008 to 10% in 2015,” said the spokesman.
He added that the research would allow the more precise targeting of control measures.“It will alert us to other food sources that may be contributing to human illness. And those that may require targeted action … similar to our current priority to target reductions in Campylobacter in chicken,” he said.
Campylobacteriosis is estimated to have caused 108 deaths in 2010 – the latest year for which full statistics are available, said the FSA.
In 2008 in England and Wales, there were 76 deaths, 15,000 hospitalisations and an estimated 321,000 cases of campylobacteriosis. It was estimated to have cost the economy more than £583M.
Campylobacter cases increased from 1989 to 2000, fell between 2000 and 2004 and have risen again since 2004, according to the Health Protection Agency.
Risk management programme
The FSA study is part of the agency’s risk management programme, which features in its Foodborne Disease Strategy for 2010 – 2015.
Applications for the research must be completed by June 2012. The contract will be awarded in October with the project beginning in November. For more information, click here .
Meanwhile, a report by consumer watchdog Which? earlier this month revealed that one-in-five supermarket chickens was contaminated with Campylobacter.
The results showed a reduction in the presence of Campylobacter by nearly 50% since 2009.
To read more, click here .