• Campylobacter: freezing chicken

    Freezing Campylobacter

    The newspapers are awash with articles today about how freezing chicken can kill Campylobacter off – this would certainly be welcome news as this organism causes the highest levels of bacterial food poisoning every year.

    Key facts about Chicken and Campylobacter from the Food Standards Agency are:

    • 72,000 confirmed cases per year, possibly reflecting over 500,000 cases as many are unreported
    • 100 deaths per year
    • £900 million cost to the UK economy
    • Around 60% of fresh chicken has been found to be contaminated with Campylobacter

    A study carried out for the Food Standards Agency on whether freezing chicken livers helped to reduce levels of Campylobacter showed that there was a decrease, after freezing but importantly it did not eliminate the bacteria. It was concluded that it would be beneficial in terms of reducing infection if manufacturers froze chicken livers.

    If we follow the advice reported in the Daily Mail and other newspapers to freeze chicken at home, (nothing posted yet on the Food Standards Agency or Public Health England) there is a good chance that this will reduce the levels of Campylobacter in our chicken, which could help reduce infection levels, but it will not banish the bug completely.

    The important thing then is to make sure that everyone still treats chicken as though it is contaminated – because it might be! This means that the following controls are essential:

    • Defrost it thoroughly, preferably at the bottom shelf of the fridge in a deep dish to catch the drip
    • Cook to 75°C in the centre of the thickest part of the chicken (not inside the cavity if it is whole). Use a disinfected (use anti bad spray or boiling water) thermometer to check
    • Sanitise any surfaces that may have been touched by the chicken or your dirty hands – use an anti-bacterial spray
    • Clean your hands – 20 seconds with soap!

     

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