Upcoming Food Safety Week 2014 to tackle Campylobacter

The FSA’s top food safety priority is to reduce foodborne disease and this includes tackling Campylobacter in chicken.  Food Safety Week 2014 takes place during 16-22 June and this year the FSA messaging aims to tackle and raise awareness of this bug because it is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.  The main message to consumers is ‘Don’t wash raw chicken’ and during Food Safety Week the FSA will be sharing a number of tips about what consumers can do to protect themselves and their family from food poisoning in their own home, particularly when handling chicken.

Funding agencies, government, regulators, scientists, industry, producers and retailers are all working together to come up with procedures and activities aimed at improving food safety and reducing levels of food poisoning. Research on improving food safety is an integral part of the GHFS Programme, a strategic programme funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Dr Arnoud van Vliet

Dr Arnoud van Vliet

Dr Arnoud van Vliet leads Campylobacter research at IFR within the GHFS Research Programme.  Arnoud and his research team investigate the different stages in the lifestyle of Campylobacter, which goes from the intestines in poultry to the surface of foods, and then is ingested and can cause disease.  They study Campylobacter with the aim of increasing our knowledge of what makes this bacterium so special, and try to identify weaknesses in the bacterium or its lifestyle that can be exploited to ultimately decrease the incidence of Campylobacter illness.  Last year year Arnoud featured on BBC Radio 4′s ‘Face the Facts’ programme where he spoke about Campylobacter and efforts to understand and control it.

Some examples of the ongoing projects focussed on Campylobacter within the GHFS Programme at the IFR are:

– The investigation of how Campylobacter survives in the food chain. Here we look at the ability of Campylobacter to survive on meat and kitchen utensils, with the hope of identifying possibilities to interfere with this process. We also investigate the process of how Campylobacter deals with the toxic effects of oxygen, to which the bacterium is sensitive, as described in this video.

– How Campylobacter moves from hostile environments to more pleasant environments.

– A new project is underway, funded by the FSA, on the identification of Campylobacter strains using profiling of its whole chromosome, in collaboration with the University of East Anglia and the Genome Analysis Centre, both located on the Norwich Research Park. The aim is to be able to trace infections through the food chain, allowing us to get a better understanding of where the Campylobacters come from which have caused disease.

An important part of tackling Campylobacter is raising public awareness so kitchen practices and food handling take the transmission route of Campylobacter into account, and ensure that all food is properly handled and prepared – and Food Safety Week 2014 is aimed at doing this.

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The programme receives funding from the BBSRC - Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and involves leading researchers from the Quadram Institute Bioscience, Imperial College, University of East Anglia and St. Mark's Hospital and Academic Institute

Quadram InstituteImperial College LondonUniversity of East AngliaSt. Mark's Hospital and Academic InstituteBBSRC - Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council