Ireland food safety authorities say that campylobacteriosis continues to be the most commonly reported foodborne illness in Ireland reporting over 300 more cases in 2014 than the year prior (2,600 vs 2,288 cases).

Ireland map/CIA
Ireland map/CIA

In fact, campylobacteriosis dwarfs the number of food poisoning cases caused by Salmonella by a factor of 10. While the campylobacteriosis figures across Europe have stabilized, Ireland’s continue to increase.

The FSAI states that the figures recorded by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in Ireland are the highest since campylobacteriosis became legally notifiable in 2004 and requires cross industry and consumer responses to be undertaken to tackle the problem.

The FSAI would support setting a microbiological hygiene standard for poultry meat at European level.  This would create a maximum tolerance level forCampylobacter in poultry which could be reviewed over time.  A similar approach was adopted as part of European controls for Salmonella which proved successful.

According to Dr Wayne Anderson, Director of Food Science and Standards, FSAI, salmonellosis was a major issue in Ireland 15 years ago, but due to the efforts of the Irish industry to control and reduce Salmonella contamination in eggs and poultry there has been a radical decrease in its incidence and impact on public health.

“A similar effort is now required to reduce Campylobacter infections which can be serious and life threatening in vulnerable people. For Salmonella control, regulations were put in place which set a maximum tolerance for Salmonella in raw poultry amongst other controls. There is a need to set similar tolerance levels for Campylobacter and this would drive new control measures throughout the food chain to reduce its occurrence,” he says. “If the industry from producer right through to retailer comes together to put in specific measures to reduce the level of Campylobacter on poultry like it did for Salmonella, it would have a positive impact on the number of people becoming sick.”

Campylobacter infections can cause acute gastroenteritis with diarrhoea and/or vomiting, and can be severe and life threatening in vulnerable people, such as the very young, the old and those with any underlying health condition. Similar to all bacteria found naturally on meat and poultry, the danger posed by Campylobacter can be removed by thoroughly cooking products and by preventing cross-contamination between raw meat and ready-to-eat foods.