Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Miranda
Campylobacter is a bacteria that may be found in nearly 70% of poultry sold in the US. In most cases, people infected with Campylobacter may experience food poisoning and recover within several days. Some however, may develop irritable bowel syndrome, and others may develop Gullain-Barré Syndrome, a life-threatening auto-immune attack on the nervous system. Exposure to this pathogen occurs primarily via cross-contamination of other foods with raw poultry, rather than from cooked poultry. Disinfection of kitchen surfaces and utensils has been shown to be ineffective at eliminating Campylobacter, even using “extreme” cleaning methods (a five-minute soak in a bleach solution). Women handling poultry products have an increased risk of urinary tract infections and children who come into contact with raw poultry products while riding in a grocery cart have an 18 fold higher risk of bacterial infection.
What is the poultry industry doing to minimize customer exposure to Campylobacter? Meat products may be treated with bacteriophages (species specific viruses that attack bacteria), which may decrease bacterial contamination, but raises the possibility of exchange of genetic material between bacterial strains. The poultry industry also treats their meat with phosphates in order to enhance the color and minimize shrinkage of the product, which may have a one million fold increase in the amount of Campylobacter compared to phosphate free poultry.
What about the government? The meat industry won the right to sell contaminated meat, without the fear of governmental interference.