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Campylobacter in food


Last updated: 22 December 2020 

What is it?

  • Campylobacter is a type of bacteria that can be found in the gut of pets, livestock and wild animals
  • It is usually transferred to food and water from the faeces (poo) or organs of animals, for example during milking and poultry processing
  • Foods at higher risk of contamination include poultry (chicken, turkey and duck) products including pâté, meat, seafood, unpasteurised milk and untreated water

What's the risk?

  • Campylobacter can cause a severe type of gastro called campylobacteriosis
  • Anyone can get campylobacteriosis but vulnerable people (i.e. very young children, the elderly) and people with weak immune systems (e.g. cancer patients) are more likely to get ill.

Reduce your risk

  • Cook food thoroughly, especially poultry meat and liver (until juices are clear and no pink meat)
  • Wash your hands with soap and dry them before preparing and eating food
  • Never wash raw chicken
  • Keep your kitchen and equipment clean
  • Avoid cross contamination − use separate cutting boards and knives for raw poultry and ready-to-eat food (like fresh fruit and vegetables), and store cooked food separately from raw foods
  • Thoroughly reheat food (to 75°C)
  • Wash fruit and vegetables with running water
  • Avoid consuming unpasteurised milk, raw seafood and untreated water

Symptoms of campylobacteriosis

  • Symptoms usually start 2-5 days after eating contaminated food
  • Common symptoms are diarrhoea (often bloody), cramps, fever, nausea, vomiting and tiredness
  • Sometimes the illness can become more serious and in rare cases Campylobacter can cause reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a neurological disorder)
  • Sometimes infected people have no symptoms
  • Most people are sick for several days and up to two weeks


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