Following recent calls for controls on the widespread incidence of the common food bug Campylobacter, Safefood, a body that encompasses Northern Ireland and Eire and that sets out to promote food safety, held a meeting at the University College in Dublin this week to discuss the development of preventative programmes.
Researchers outlined their current activities and demonstrated how these will be applied to foodchain monitoring and management. Safefood reports that researchers in the National DiagnosticsCentre and NUI Galway presented information on the development of a DNAdetection method which has the potential for same-day turnaround.
Safefood is also funding research aimed at determining the source of the bug. A team of researchers from the Faculty ofVeterinary Medicine University College Dublin, under the direction of PaulWhyte, is currently tracing Campylobacter through the food chain from the clinicalIsolate - the specimen from the sick person - to its source. According to Safefood bugs have beenrecovered from retail food samples and from clinical samples.
Unsurprisingly, raw poultry products were named as the predominant source, with smaller numbers of pork beef and lamb also implicated. However, scientists report that Campylobacter has also been recovered in a small number of shellfish andoysters. The bugs are being collected concurrently from people in Dublin,Belfast and Galway and also from a variety of foods and pets. Thesespecimens will be compared and any links established.
At the meeting this week Dr Quigley of Safefood said he was concerned with the high figures ofCampylobacter infection for the island. ""2621 cases were reported on the island in 2000. This conference helps us tounderstand how the bug contaminates food and survives in the environment.It will also lead to coordination of research throughout the island ofIreland and will facilitate a reduction of foodborne illnesses associatedwith Campylobacter.
While we are still learning about this bug, consumersshould be aware that proper cooking, washing of hands and cooking poultrythoroughly should always be followed."
The PHLS (Public Health Laboratory Service) CDSC's (Communicable Disease Surveillance Centres) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health, recorded 65,209 laboratory-confirmed cases of food poisoning caused by the top 5 food-borne bacteria (Salmonella, E-Coli 0157, Campylobacter, Listeria, and Clostridium Perfringens) in the UK in 2000.