Chicken: Biggest source of Scottish campylobacter food poisoning

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Campylobacter jejuni

Retail chicken has been identified as the as the single largest source of food poisoning in Scotland, according to a report published by Food Standards Agency Scotland.

The research, led by Dr Ken Forbes, Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Aberdeen, is intended to help develop strategies to reduce the levels of food poisoning caused by campylobacter. It highlighted the need to focus intervention strategies on the broiler food chain and the need for further work to identify infection routes from farm ruminants.

The world’s largest study of its kind, it used a molecular typing method to compare campylobacter strain types from clinical cases with those isolated from a range of environmental and food sources. It compared campylobacter isolates from human cases of infection with those from food and environmental sources and identified epidemiological links and sources of infection.

Research projects

The study is one of a number of research projects being funded by the FSAS to improve understanding of the causes, spread and control of campylobacter infection in Scotland.

FSAS plans to hold a one-day dissemination event on 17 June 2009 to inform relevant stakeholders on the research findings.

Campylobacter infections comprise two species c. jejuni and c. coli and contribute up to half of all reported cases of infectious intestinal diseases in the UK, said the report’s authors. It assesses the annual economic cost of these infections at ₤0.5bn a year and estimates that for every reported case, seven go unreported.

Common sources of infection occur in animal and bird faeces in the environment and animal meats in the food chain.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), campylobacter​ is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness. Most cases occur as isolated, sporadic events, not as part of recognised outbreaks. “Active surveillance through FoodNet indicates that about 13 cases are diagnosed each year for each 100,000 persons in the population​ says the organisation.


“Many more cases go undiagnosed or unreported, and campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect over 2.4m persons every year, or 0.8 per cent of the population. Campylobacteriosis occurs much more frequently in the summer months than in the winter.”

About 124 US citizens die from Campylobacter​ infections each year, said CDC.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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