New report points to progress with campylobacter reduction in the UK

14 March 2017

Campylobacter is the biggest cause of food poisoning in Scotland, and research has indicated that 55-75% of cases are associated with chicken. Reducing the levels of campylobacter infection is a priority for Food Standards Scotland and we have been working closely with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to promote action by producers and retailers to reduce the levels of contamination in UK produced poultry.

Data published in February 2017 by Health Protection Scotland, showed a decline of 15.5% in the number of laboratory reports of human cases of campylobacter in Scotland in 2016, compared to the previous year.

Information published by FSA today indicate that this downward trend extends across the UK, with figures from clinical surveillance bodies showing a 17% reduction in the number of reported campylobacter cases in the UK in 2016.  Results of modelling undertaken by the FSA has estimated that these figures equate to 100,000 fewer cases of campylobacter across the UK as a whole, which has a positive impact on the burden to the economy, with fewer days off work and reduced NHS costs.

These findings are being published today alongside results from the third year of the UK-wide retail survey of campylobacter on fresh whole chilled chickens, which show the levels of campylobacter contamination have continued to decrease.

The results for the first five months of the third retail survey, from August to December 2016, show:

  • Overall, 7% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination
  • Among the nine retailers with the highest market share, 5% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination
  • The percentage of chickens that tested positive for the presence of campylobacter at any level is 56%, down from 66% in 2015 and 78% in 2014

FSS Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Norval Strachan, said:

“Reducing foodborne illness from campylobacter is a strategic priority for Food Standards Scotland, and I am pleased to see a decline in the number of human cases in Scotland for a second consecutive year. Campylobacter poisoning can cause severe illness in humans, and even death.

“The reported reduction in the levels of campylobacter in chicken is encouraging.  However, it is important for Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland and industry to continue working in partnership to protect public health.”

More detail on the UK-wide survey can be found here.

 

 

 

 

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