Campylobacter jejuni grows poorly on properly refrigerated foods but does survive refrigeration and will grow if contaminated foods are left out at room temperature. The bacterium is sensitive to heat and other common disinfection procedures; pasteurization of milk, adequate cooking of meat and poultry, and chlorination or ozonation of water will destroy this organism. Infection control measures at all stages of food processing may help to decrease the incidence of Campylobacter infections, but the single most important and reliable step is to adequately cook all poultry products.
The most reliable method to ensure this is to use a digital food thermometer. Document that the thickest part of the chicken, turkey, duck or goose (the center of the breast) reaches 180°F or higher, as recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA and its Model Food Code recommends at least 165°F for stuffing, 170°F for ground poultry products, and that thighs and wings be cooked until juices run clear.
Most cases of campylobacteriosis are sporadic or involve small family groups, although some common-source outbreaks involving many people have been traced to contaminated water or milk. Other sources of Campylobacter include children prior to toilet training, especially in childcare settings , and intimate contact with other infected individuals. C. jejuniis commonly present in the gastrointestinal tract of healthy cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese, and direct animal exposure can lead to infection. Pets that may carry Campylobacter include birds, cats, dogs, hamsters, and turtles. The organism is also occasionally isolated from streams, lakes and ponds.
There are a large number of control measures of import that are available to consumers and foodservice personnel to prevent the transmission of Campylobacter. These control measures include the following:
- Choose the coolest part of the vehicle (generally the trunk in winter and cab in summer) to transport meat and poultry home from the market.
- Defrost meat and poultry in the refrigerator. Place the item on a low shelf, on a wide pan, lined with paper towel; ensure that drippings do not land on foods below. If there is not enough time to defrost in the refrigerator, then use the microwave.
- Do not cook stuffing actually inside the bird.
- Rapidly cool leftovers.
- Never leave food out at room temperature (either during preparation or after cooking) for more than 2 hours.
- Avoid raw milk and products made from raw milk. Drink only pasteurized milk products.
- Wash hands thoroughly using soap and water, concentrate on fingertips and nail creases, and dry completely with a disposable paper towel at the following times:
- after contact with pets, especially puppies, or farm animals.
- before and after preparing food, especially poultry.
- after changing diapers or having contact with an individual with an intestinal infection.
- children on arrival home from school or day-care.
- Wash fruits and vegetables carefully, particularly if they are eaten raw. If possible, vegetables and fruits should be peeled.
- Use pasteurized eggs.
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Campylobacteroutbreaks. The Campylobacter lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Campylobacter and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $800 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Campylobacter lawyers have litigated Campylobacter cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as chicken, raw milk and municipal water.
If you or a family member became ill with a Campylobacter infection, including Guillain-Barré Syndrome, or GBS, after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Campylobacter attorneys for a free case evaluation.