Next stage of Campylobacter strategy in place by early 2016

  • Jo Goodhew
Food Safety

Action is being taken by the Government to achieve further reductions in Campylobacter levels in chicken, says Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew.

“Stage one of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Campylobacter Strategy has seen a 57% decrease in notified cases of Campylobacter-related foodborne illness in New Zealand since 2006,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“As part of the Campylobacter Strategy the Ministry is regularly auditing poultry processors, monitoring and assessing new strains of Campylobacter, and monitoring of food products at various points in the food chain.

“The Ministry is now in the process of reviewing New Zealand’s Campylobacter Strategy. In particular, it is looking at new performance measures for how our large poultry processing premises can reduce the rate of fresh carcasses testing positive for Campylobacter to below 30% by the end of 2017, and how a further 10% reduction in human foodborne campylobacteriosis cases can be achieved by the end of 2020.”

Consultation on the proposed changes to the National Microbiological Database, which includes poultry and red meat, closed last Friday 18 December. The Ministry is now reviewing all submissions before deciding on the next stage of the Campylobacter Strategy, which will be finalised in early 2016.

“Foodborne sources of human campylobacter are only part of the picture,” says Mrs Goodhew. “As well as cases resulting from poultry and consumption of raw milk, cases can also be attributed to non-food related sources such as contaminated rural water supplies and live animal contact.

“Because of this we are developing a New Zealand-wide study that will compare sources of foodborne and non-foodborne cases of campylobacter.

“Public health experts, industry and the government have always agreed that reducing Campylobacter in chicken is a priority and collaboration has been key in helping us achieve reductions so far.

“We acknowledge that more work needs to be done collaboratively to see continuous progress towards the goal of reducing foodborne illnesses related to Campylobacter.”

Although all chicken is tested and monitored on a regular basis to ensure it meets New Zealand’s microbiological food safety standards before being sold to consumers, there remains a risk if chicken is not properly cooked.

Freezing chicken reduces the risk but doesn’t completely eliminate it. Good hygiene practices at home, such as careful preparation and proper cooking, minimises the risk of illness.