What can food companies do to fight the growing threat of Campylobacter?
Campylobacter are bacteria responsible for an infectious disease in humans called campylobacteriosis, which is a leading cause of gastroenteritis throughout the world. The bacteria can be carried in wild and domesticated birds, along with pigs, cattle and other animals, and are transmitted to humans via direct contact or consumption of contaminated food products.
There are more than a dozen Campylobacter species, but the ones most frequently associated with infections in humans are C. jejuni, C. coli and C. lari.
Foodborne campylobacteriosis is often due to raw or undercooked poultry and meat, raw milk and untreated water, although fish, mussels and fresh vegetables can also cause it. Symptoms typically include severe diarrhea, abdominal pains, fever, headache and nausea, lasting from three to six days. The disease is rarely fatal, but complications include reactive arthritis and neurological disorders. C. jejuni is recognized as an antecedent cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can lead to damaged respiratory and neurological functions and even death.
Magnitude of the issue
A recent report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) highlighted that campylobacteriosis in humans is a growing issue, with 14 percent increase in 2007. Incidence rates vary by age group, between 32 and 120 cases per 100,000.
According to the report, Campylobacter were found in about 26 percent of broiler flocks in the EU, although this rate varied widely (0 to 86 percent) among member states. A closer examination shows that 46 percent of the Campylobacter isolated from fresh broiler meat were C. jejuni, 18 percent were C. coli, 0.6 percent were C. lari. None of the reporting countries has seen a decrease in Campylobacter infections in recent years.
Testing for Campylobacter in Quality Assurance laboratories
Faced with the growing issue of Campylobacter and foodborne pathogens in general, food producers and processors need effective means to ensure the safety of their products. Detecting the presence of the pathogen is an important first step.
Many tests for pathogens exist in the food market today. When determining which method to use for detecting Campylobacter, quality control labs should consider several factors:
The BAX System from DuPont Qualicon is a turnkey solution that meets all of the above-mentioned criteria. The system offers advanced DNA-based detection for a broad range of sampling applications - from ingredients to end products - and provides differentiated, next-day results for three species of Campylobacter.
Quality control programs and trends in the EU
The EFSA is completing a series of baseline surveys on prevalence of Campylobacter. These studies will be used for identifying and ranking the possible control options within the production chain. As a result, the European Commission could update the regulation on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs to include reduction targets and limits for Campylobacter as for other pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli, Staphylococcal enterotoxins and Enterobacter sakazakii.
Dr. Doris Engesser-Sudlow is Business Director DuPont Qualicon EMEA, a world leader in providing innovative, science-based diagnostic products that can reduce the impact of pathogens and other unwelcome organisms in food. For more information, please visit www.Qualicon.com.