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  • James Wragg

Campylobacter – Misunderstood but Oversubscribed

At FreshCheck, we understand the complexities and challenges food safety officers face, especially with pathogens like Campylobacter. In this blog, we delve into the often misunderstood but prevalent Campylobacter, shedding light on its impact and the necessity for meticulous food safety practices.

hygiene targets

Significant Impact

Campylobacter is, relatively speaking, one of the newer kids on the block when it comes to microbiological risks. However, just because it's newer doesn't mean it lacks a significant impact. Despite being relatively new in the world of microbiological risks, Campylobacter still has a significant impact on food safety.. In fact Campylobacteriosis is the most often reported cause of food poisoning in the UK with over 50,000 cases per year. And these are only the cases which get clinically confirmed. It is estimated that in actuality there may be as many as 450,000 cases per year. Most of these cases are caused by just 2 of the over 100 species – Campylobacter jejeuni and Campylobacter coli, however there are at least a dozen other species that have been implicated in causing disease. Part of the reason for their success in infecting people is because the infectious doses are low, and total levels are high – particularly in susceptible foodstuffs.

Campylobacter - Detection Challenges

One of the reasons that Campylobacter was late to the food-poisoning party is due to its fastidious nature making it particularly difficult to detect and culture. Specifically it will only grow in a micro-aerophilic environment. This means that oxygen needs to be present, but only in low amounts. In a zero-oxygen environment it will not grow, and this is also true when exposed to usual atmospheric oxygen levels (approx. 14%). To grow this most fussy of bacteria we need to have an atmosphere of 3-5% Oxygen – something which was exceedingly difficult to achieve before commercial solutions were available. Nowadays detecting Campylobacter in the laboratory is fairly routine and there are a number of accepted methods that can be used, from traditional culturing techniques through to enrichment followed by advanced techniques such as PCR or ELISA.

Hygiene Monitoring

Traditionally Campylobacteriosis cases increase during summer time as one of the most common vectors of infection is through consumption of undercooked poultry – very often from the BBQ’s that are more common at this time of year. However, although poultry is a main source of the disease due to the high numbers of bacteria found in it, there are many other potential vectors. Campylobacter infections have also historically been caused by contaminated water, milk, shellfish, and other types of meat such as pork and beef. Due to its fastidious nature Campylobacter will not be detected by the standard microbiological hygiene testing that is usually carried out in food production, and would usually be detected in products using specific presence/absence testing. This is obviously more expensive, meaning Campylobacter is not normally monitored as part of routine hygiene testing. Like the majority of bacteria, Campylobacter is mostly found with the presence of other bacteria and often utilises biofilms to aid its survival. As a result comprehensive monitoring of other indicator organisms is essential to giving confidence that food safety is as comprehensively implemented as is possible.

FreshCheck Recommendation

Ensuring food safety in the presence of pathogens like Campylobacter requires innovative and reliable hygiene monitoring solutions. FreshCheck's colour change hygiene verification system provides an accessible, efficient, and accurate method for maintaining high hygiene standards. Integrating our tools into your food safety protocols, can enhance your preventive measures, ensuring the safety and well-being of your consumers. Explore FreshCheck's products and see how we can help you stay ahead in the fight against food-borne pathogens.


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