Campylobacter is a bacterium that can cause an illness called campylobacteriosis in humans. With over 190,000 human cases annually, this disease is the most frequently reported food-borne illness in the European Union (EU). However, the actual number of cases is believed to be around nine million each year. The cost of campylobacteriosis to public health systems and to lost productivity in the EU is estimated by EFSA to be around EUR 2.4 billion a year.
To protect consumers from this public health threat, the EU has adopted an integrated approach to food safety from the farm to the fork. The approach consists of both risk assessment and risk management measures involving all key actors: EU Member States, European Commission, European Parliament, EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The approach is supported by timely and effective risk communication activities.
EFSA plays an important role in protecting consumers from this public health threat by providing independent scientific support and advice on the human health and food safety-related aspects of Campylobacter.
Campylobacteriosis is a zoonosis – a disease or infection that can be transmitted directly or indirectly between animals and humans. Usual symptoms are fever, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps. Raw poultry meat is often contaminated with Campylobacter since the bacterium can live in the intestines of healthy birds. It is also found in pigs and cattle. Eating undercooked chicken, or ready-to-eat foods that have been in contact with raw chicken, is the most common source of infection. In its assessments, EFSA has found that chickens and chicken meat may directly account for 20-30% of human cases.
Safe handling of raw meat and other raw food ingredients, thorough cooking and good kitchen hygiene can prevent or reduce the risk posed by contaminated food.