A silver bullet for Campylobacter

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK and according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), was responsible for more than 371,000 estimated cases, 17,500 hospitalisations and 88 deaths in England and Wales in 2009.

It also accounts for a third of the cost of the burden of foodborne illness in England and Wales, estimated at more than £583m.

Catherine Brown, chief executive of the FSA is on record as having stated that both the human and economic cost of Campylobacter is unacceptable.

In 2008, 27% of chickens in the UK were in the highest category of contamination according the FSA figures and it set itself a target to reduce this to 10% by 2015, hopefully leading to fewer than 100,000 cases of Campylobacter poisoning a year.

By 2013 however, Campylobacter levels in chickens have seen hardly any improvement.

People might be alarmed to know that the poultry industry is producing and retailers are selling chicken they know to be contaminated with the dangerous bacteria. Indeed, in tests conducted by the FSA, nearly two thirds of all chicken sold was contaminated with Campylobacter.

Birds identified as having the bacteria can be sold for human consumption on the grounds that they present no risk to health as long as they are handled and cooked properly.

It is obvious that people are not handling or cooking chicken properly. As a result, around £4million is being spent per year on researching how to reduce the incidence of Campylobacter infections in humans by reducing both the level of the bacterium in farm animal hosts and the potential for cross contamination throughout the food chain.

Campylobacter a natural part of the gut of a wide variety of both wild and domesticated animals and they show no sign whatsoever of disease.

Housed poultry can be maintained free of Campylobacter through the use of excellent biosecurity such as good hand hygiene by stockmen as well as changing of overalls and boots on entering bird areas. In practice however, the success of this biosecurity will also depend upon the degree of environmental contamination.

Campylobacter is easily transported around the farm so it may be difficult to stop the spread of infection between houses once it becomes established in one.

Depopulation or “thinning” practices in chicken flocks is known to increase the likelihood of infection in live birds and the crates they’re transported in to the slaughterhouses offer ideal conditions for cross contamination.  

As a result, Campylobacter-free poultry is not expected to be available anytime soon.

Indeed, Institute of Food Research scientist Mark Reuter recently commented “Manufacturers should look at what they can do to prevent the spread of Campylobacter, not just look to scientists for a magic bullet against Campylobacter”.

In the processing plant, the most likely source of cross infection is from gutting the chicken and removing the feathers. Despite putting in place measures to stop cross contamination, the processing plants are having little success eradicating it.

Cross-contamination in the kitchen has been identified as a major contributing cause of food borne illness. Interventions to change consumer behaviour such as having clean hands, cleaning kitchen utensils, cutting boards, taps and surfaces that have come into contact with raw meat, rinsing of salads and most importantly cooking all meat thoroughly, could significantly reduce the incidence of Campylobacteriosis.

Also, chicken should not be washed before cooking as Campylobacter can easily be splashed onto other surfaces. Chicken packaging should be put straight in the dustbin.

As soon as routine cleaning stops, bacteria can begin to grow, with some harmful microbes able to double in number every 20 minutes. It’s impossible to clean surfaces and products all of the time whereas Biomaster inhibits the growth of bacteria in between cleaning cycles.

Biomaster pioneered the use of silver based antimicrobial additives and can provide an antimicrobial solution for any point in the food chain to reduce the risk of bacterial cross contamination.

The antimicrobial action of Biomaster is silver ion technology. Silver is a natural antimicrobial that has been used for centuries to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Biomaster works to kill bacteria in three ways. Silver ions built into the surface of the product bind to and damage the bacteria cell wall preventing growth; they stop bacteria from producing energy and interrupt the DNA, preventing replication. If a bacteria cell cannot grow, produce energy or replicate, it dies.

Easily incorporated into any plastic, textile, paper, paint and coating during manufacture, Biomaster becomes an integral part of the finished product making it more hygienic, whilst providing effective, lasting antimicrobial protection and reducing the threat of cross contamination. It’s inorganic so it can’t leach out or be washed off.

Products treated with Biomaster have been proven to reduce the growth of food borne harmful bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and E.coli by up to 99.99%.

There are a number of forward-thinking companies who have already brought to market products that can help prevent the spread of Campylobacter.

Egg incubators create the ideal conditions for the growth of microbes and bacteria that can in turn be harmful to incubating eggs and can cause embryonic death. To reduce this risk Brinsea, the incubation specialists, have incorporated Biomaster into their incubator cabinets to prevent the growth of bacteria and help provide the optimum environment for hatching.

Biomaster are also working closely with producers of broiler house feeders and drinkers and protective clothing manufacturers for stockmen and processing personnel to launch products offering built-in antimicrobial protection.

Dycem produce Biomaster Protected high performance mats and floor coverings that stop contamination in its tracks.  Research has shown that the use of their products can lead to a 75% reduction in airborne contaminants – so they’re ideal for use in food processing plants and packaging areas.

Multi-material packaging manufacturer LINPAC which supplies packaging to all the multi-nationals has launched a range of Biomaster Protected meat trays and films to reduce bacteria growth on the outer packaging of fresh meat. The range won the Award for Innovation at the 2013 Pig and Poultry Marketing Awards and is now helping to prevent cross contamination during packaging and distribution.

And to ensure all your meat is cooked properly, there’s the Biomaster Protected ThermaLite 2 is a cost effective thermometer that is ideal for routine day-to-day food and catering applications.

Biomaster alone will not eradicate Campylobacter. However, when used in conjunction with both excellent biosecurity on the farm and in process plants and food hygiene best practice around the home, it can provide lasting protection against cross contamination on virtually any surface.

*Please note that Addmaster was acquired by the Polygiene Group AB in January 2021, so all news articles prior to that date will still be branded as Addmaster.