Avoid campylobacter with the 4Cs

Campylobacter can cause serious illness for the over 65s. Avoid it by following the 4Cs when you prepare and cook chicken.

Anyone can get campylobacter but over 65s are at greater risk of serious side effects.

The body’s immune system weakens as you age increasing the risk of getting food poisoning, which can lead to serious illness, hospitalisation or even death.

1 in 9 end up hospitalised for adults aged 20 - 64, 1 in 6 for those aged 65 - 79, 1 in 3 for those aged 80+
Rates of hospitalisation for those who attend their GP with campylobacter infection

What is campylobacter?

Campylobacter is the most common bacterial cause of food poisoning in Scotland. It is often spread by poor handling and preparation of raw chicken. Even one drop of juice from raw chicken can have enough campylobacter to infect you. 

Top tip

Never wash raw chicken. It can spread campylobacter around the kitchen sink and surfaces.

Campylobacter can be found in:

  • Raw chicken and other poultry
  • Liver
  • Unpasteurised dairy products
  • Untreated water

Symptoms of campylobacter

  • Diarrhoea (sometimes bloody)
  • Stomach pain
  • High temperature
  • Occasionally vomiting

Symptoms typically last 7 days.


There are an estimated 54,000 cases of campylobacteriosis in Scotland every year.

Preventing food poisoning from chicken

Follow the 4Cs when cooking chicken to stay safe:


Defrost chicken in the fridge in a covered container on the bottom shelf away from cooked foods. Always check chicken is fully defrosted before cooking.


Always wash your hands in warm, soapy water after handling raw chicken. Effective cleaning removes bacteria on hands, equipment and surfaces, helping to stop campylobacter from spreading onto food.


Avoid cross-contaminationAvoid cross-contamination

Never wash raw chicken! This can splash harmful bacteria around your kitchen sink and surfaces. Use different chopping boards and utensils for raw chicken and ready-to-eat food. If you can’t use different chopping boards and utensils, thoroughly wash them in hot, soapy water between use.


Check the chicken is cooked to 75°C in the thickest part using a meat thermometer. Ensure there’s no pink meat, the juices run clear and that it’s steaming hot in the middle. This is the only way to ensure that harmful bacteria are killed.

Support our campaign

Our partner toolkit is a helpful tool to increase awareness of the danger campylobacter poses to those aged over 65.

Download the toolkit

More on this topic



You can’t see campylobacter, smell it or taste it on food but if it affects you, you won’t forget it


At home

Whether you’re shopping or cooking, these tips will help make sure the food you cook and eat won’t do you any harm.


Older People

Maintaining a healthy weight, drinking enough fluids and eating a balanced diet can help you stay healthy and active as you get older.