Ten Facts About Campylobacter

Campylobacter bacteria are found in a variety of healthy domestic and wild animals, but if transmitted to humans, can cause serious cases of food poisoning known as Campylobacteriosis.

There are lots of ways you can help reduce the risk of food poisoning and avoid becoming ill, so read on for 10 facts about Campylobacter.


1. Campylobacter, which literally means twisted bacteria in honour of its helical shape, currently has over 30 recognised species which can cause infections in humans and animals


2. Campylobacter usually live in the digestive tract of animals and once shed in the faeces can be transmitted to humans through poor food safety and hygiene measures.


3. The bacteria is most well-known for infecting poultry, with an FSA study finding that approximately 73% of raw retail chickens and 7% of raw chicken outer packaging were contaminated with the bug.


4. As well as raw chicken, it can be found in liver, red meat, unpasteurized dairy products, wild birds and there are even some instances of it being found in eggs.


5. Campylobacter is still the main source of food poisoning in the UK with around 280,000 people suffering from the bug and in some cases this can be fatal with about 110 deaths a year – or roughly 1 every 3 days.


6. It only takes a low number of about 500 bacteria to cause an illness and you’ll most likely see symptoms like painful diarrhoea and stomach cramps after around 2-5 days.


7. As with most cases of food poisoning, the best treatment is to rest and stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.  In more severe cases you may be prescribed antibiotics to help fight off the infection so make sure you finish the full course of medication prescribed. Whilst most people recover without further problems, serious complications can include reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.


8. As the bacteria can have serious implications in very small numbers, it’s extremely important that you practice good food safety when handling raw chicken.  Wash and dry your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling chicken and disinfect any surfaces or utensils that have been used. 


9. You should also avoid rinsing raw chicken under the tap, as this can spread bacteria, and make sure it is cooked all the way through before eating.


10. As Campylobacter can be found on the outside of chicken packaging and can survive for up to 8 weeks, make sure you clean any reusable bags when shopping to prevent this spreading to other food.  Or, you can buy an Biomaster antibacterial bag for life here.


Did you know approximately 463 million chickens handled in the home and 9 million packs of chicken sold each year are contaminated with Campylobacter on the outside of the packaging?


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Image: CDC

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