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Story At-A-Glance

  • The Campylobacter bacteria spreads to humans from animals primarily via the consumption of contaminated chicken.
  • When one gets sick from the Campylobacter bacteria, it typically causes a combination of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and can last up to 14 days.
  • Handling chicken in domestic and catering kitchens can result in Campylobacter cross-contamination on utensils and other surfaces.
  • Detergent and hot water are not enough to control Campylobacter contamination throughout the kitchen.
  • When detergent and hot water are used in combination with HOCl disinfectant, it significantly reduces Campylobacter contamination throughout the kitchen.
  • As HOCl disinfectant has been safely used in poultry processing facilities for many years to control Campylobacter contamination, using HOCl disinfectants in a domestic or catering kitchen is a wise and effective choice.

What is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter, a class of bacteria, is known to be a leading zoonotic disease in humans.1 Zoonotic diseases are caused by germs which spread from animals to humans.2 Germs spread from animals to people by either direct or indirect contact, or vector-borne, foodborne, and waterborne causes.3 Foodborne germs are transmitted to humans when a contaminated food product is consumed. Food can become contaminated with Campylobacter through contact with the feces from an infected animal.4 Although Campylobacter bacteria have been known to spread to humans via drinking water, raw milk, and other ways, it primarily spreads as a foodborne germ via poultry, particularly chicken.5 

Campylobacter bacteria can cause acute gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the small and large intestine.6,7 According to one U.S. source: “Acute gastroenteritis is a common infectious disease syndrome, causing a combination of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. There are more than 350 million cases of acute gastroenteritis in the United States annually and 48 million of these cases are caused by foodborne bacteria.”8 Symptoms associated with the Campylobacter bacterial acute gastroenteritis usually start within two to five days after ingestion of the foodborne germ, and typically last fewer than 14 days.9,10 Although a nuisance, in developed countries the illnesses caused by the Campylobacter bacteria are not normally life-threatening.11 

Control Strategies: Poultry Processing Plants

Strategies exist to control the spread of Campylobacter in all parts of the food industry. These mitigation strategies are used on-farm, in processing plants, and in domestic and catering kitchens.12 As much of Campylobacter contamination is spread via poultry, research to mitigate Campylobacter particularly focuses on poultry. Chlorine, specifically sodium hypochlorite (HOCl), is the most common method to control Campylobacter contamination in the washing equipment in poultry processing facilities.13 HOCl is used in the washing equipment because it is safe, inexpensive, and simple to implement.14 Spraying these chicken carcasses with HOCl significantly reduces Campylobacter contamination.15  

Control Strategies: Domestic & Catering Kitchens

Campylobacter is heat sensitive. Therefore, any contamination remaining on chicken can be eliminated in a domestic or catering kitchen at normal cooking temperatures. If in the process of preparation, a piece of contaminated chicken contacts working surfaces or utensils, cross-contamination can easily occur.16 A study in the U.K. showed that when only detergent and hot water was used to mitigate Campylobacter contamination throughout the kitchen, it was not enough to reduce the cross-contamination. However, when these were used in combination with a HOCl disinfectant, it was enough to significantly reduce the contamination.17 As HOCl disinfectants have been used safely and inexpensively at poultry processing facilities for years to control Campylobacter contamination, using them in a domestic or catering kitchen makes just as much sense. 

Sources and References