Campylobacter garnering greater attention

by Keith Nunes
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KANSAS CITY — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual food safety report card is mostly positive for the food and beverage industry, but it shows a troubling trend with regards to the pathogen Campylobacter.

While incidents of food borne illness involving E. coli O157:H7, Listeria and Salmonella showed no change when compared to a baseline established between 2006 and 2008, incidents of illnesses caused by Campylobacter increased to 13.82% cases per 100,000 consumers. The C.D.C.’s target is for the Campylobacter incident rate to be 8.5% per 100,000 by 2020.


The C.D.C. said many incidents of illness due to Campylobacter are related to the consumption of chicken and dairy products as well as fresh produce. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of red meat, poultry and egg products, is in the process of determining whether the creation of a performance standard for Campylobacter is warranted.

The C.D.C. report is particularly disturbing, because last year the same C.D.C. report card showed an incidence rate of 14.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2012. Europe also has seen a rise in infections due to the pathogen. In 2011, a total of 220,209 Campylobacter cases were reported in humans, which marked a 2% increase from 2010.

Of particular concern is the population of consumers most susceptible to infections — children under the age of 5 and people over the age of 65, a population that is in the midst of rapid growth.

The C.D.C.’s report card shows a need for greater effort to reduce the incidence of infections caused by Campylobacter. The processes and technologies are available and it is recommended companies that manufacture products susceptible to contamination take the steps necessary to reduce it. Federal public health officials are in the midst of deciding how to deal with the trend and a proactive approach by companies and industry sectors would be far more beneficial.
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