Proper kitchen hygiene: avoid Campylobacter infections

Bacterial food infections: Avoid Campylobacter infections

It is estimated that there are around nine million Campylobacter infections in the European Union every year. These bacteria cause diarrheal diseases in humans. The pathogens can sometimes be life-threatening for immunocompromised people. The infections can be avoided by simple hygiene measures.

A few bacteria are enough

As reported by the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE) in a communication, only a few bacteria of the genus Campylobacter cause diarrheal diseases in humans. According to experts, 500 cells are enough for an infection. In 2016, around 74,000 documented cases were reported, making Campylobacter far more important than Salmonella infections, of which only around 13,000 were found in the same period. There are an estimated 9 million infections a year across the EU.

Infection can be dangerous

Despite the frequency, the bacterium is largely unknown to consumers: in a survey by TÜV Süd, only one percent of those surveyed named Campylobacter as the cause of bacterial food infections.

Campylobacter can cause infections that include symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

In rare cases, complications from Campylobacteriosis can also be Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disease of the nervous system.

In immunocompromised patients, a chronic course threatens and in the worst case the infection can reach life-threatening proportions. A food infection can be particularly dangerous for older people.

Lack of kitchen hygiene as the main cause of infection

As the BZfE explains, the Campylobacter infection is a so-called zoonosis. The pathogen is transmitted from animals to humans via food of animal origin.

Different types of Campylobacter occur naturally in the intestines of poultry, cattle and pigs and they are also detectable in wild birds and pets.

Dogs and cats who live closely with humans are also a potential source of infection. Poultry droppings stuck to eggshells can also contain the bacteria.

The main cause of infection, however, is poor kitchen hygiene when processing poultry meat.

The bacteria are washed down from the poultry and sprayed with washing-up water or meat juice onto devices or other foods.

Anyone who does not wash their hands, knives or cutting boards between work steps with meat and those with raw food, for example, is transferring bacteria to foods that are not heated.

Cook the meat properly

Health experts therefore advise that you should pay particular attention to kitchen hygiene, especially with poultry meat.

Raw chicken should always be covered and kept in the refrigerator at the bottom, so that any escaping liquid does not drip onto other foods.

Kitchen utensils such as knives, cutting boards and fittings must always be cleaned thoroughly after preparing poultry. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water afterwards so that the bacteria do not spread.

The most important thing, however, is that the meat is always well cooked, because this is the only way the pathogens die.

According to the BZfE, Campylobacter are temperature sensitive, but they can stay in undercooked meat.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) writes on its website: "Heat poultry and meat dishes sufficiently until the escaping meat juice is clear and the meat has turned whitish (poultry), gray pink (pork) or gray-brown (beef)."

According to the experts, 70 ° C must be reached inside the food for at least two minutes. If in doubt, the temperature can be checked with a meat thermometer.

Cold is not enough to kill the germs: "The freezing of food reduces the number of Campylobacter, but does not kill it enough," says the BfR. (ad)

Author and source information

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