• raw chicken campylobacter food poisoning

    Campylobacter food poisoning is not a mild dose of the runs

    Some people think that food poisoning is a mild illness which if anything might help them lose weight, but I recently watched this clip about a man who contracted Campylobacter food poisoning and developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, causing him to be paralysed. Having seen a friend also go through similar slow recovery from this syndrome, I know how awful, painful and frankly scary it is.

    I am sharing this because simple precautions can help to prevent what can be a life-changing or even life-threatening event. If we think about the chain of infection, the places to break that chain become very obvious, and are not even expensive. In the clip, Dai talks about the importance of cooking chicken to prevent illness, but there is more to it than that. It may be that he did cook his chicken properly, so how else could he have become ill?Read more

  • helpful tips to get formula ready in a hurry, safely

    Baby hungry for formula! Speed & safety

    Getting formula ready in a hurry

    All parents have been there – someone hasn’t sterilised the bottles, there is no made up formula in the fridge, and it is 3 am and your baby is waking the whole household and probably the street as well! You are half asleep, desperate to go back to sleep but need to get it sorted. Quickly. But above all safely because babies are more susceptible to disease.

    Read more

  • Campylobacter In the News Again

    Campylobacter is in the news again – what are the key facts?

    What is Campylobacter?Campylobacter has been found in a high percentage of raw poutlry

    Campylobacter is a bacterium that causes very unpleasant illness, which in England and Wales kills around 100 people per year. It is estimated that there may be 460,000 cases per year and 22,000 hospitalisations annually. The illness can linger on for over a week. It causes severe diarrhoea, acute abdominal pain, and can result in complications such as reactive arthritis.

    Where does it come from?

    In the EU around 50-80% of illness is attributed to poultry. Over 60% of retail poultry has been found to contain Campylobacter in a UK study, but the figure may be much higher in Europe where 75% has been quoted. It is also found on other meats and in the environment – wild birds carry it and leave it in their faeces and in water courses.

    How do people get ill at home?

    • Campylobacter is infectious in very low doses, so you don’t need much to make you ill.
    • Contamination has been found on meat and poultry packaging, so the risks can start at the supermarkets.
    • On the way home, the bag can be contaminated (over and over again if a bag for life).Dirty cloths can spread bacteria
    • When you get home other opportunities for contamination can be in your fridge (on to ready-to-eat food), on surfaces, utensils and hands. Clean up with a cloth, and it’s on there too!
    • If you undercook chicken or chicken livers, then you are heading for trouble, as the bacteria could survive.

    What can be done to be safe?

    Understanding the routes of transmission is the first thing – and you can see that hand washing with soap would be very useful at a number of times:

    • After doing the shopping
    • After putting foods away in the fridge
    • After preparing chicken and meat

    You also need to clean up to kill any Campylobacter on surfaces or utensils. Hot soapy water in my opinion is not enough – I am worried that the cloth will get contaminated and then spread the bacteria all round the kitchen!

    Here are my recommendations:

    • Use the dishwasher on a hot wash for utensils
    • If washing up by hand, put dirty utensils in the sink and (carefully)! pour boiling water over them – could be when draining the peas!Dishwashers at high temperatures will get utensils hygienically clean
    • Use an anti-bacterial cleansing spray on the surfaces with disposable paper towels. You don’t need to get through bucket loads of the stuff – a bottle can last a long time if you just use it when you really need to.
    • If you use a cloth, then you will need to disinfect it after use and then leave it to dry – or if disposable, throw it away.


    • Cook poultry and poultry products all the way through – 75 °C is recommended and you can only measure that with a clean probe thermometer. These are very cheap – less than £20. Believe me, that is money well spent! You can’t always tell by looking at food colour whether it is cooked enough. And I am not saying that because we are selling them!


    So once it’s in the pan – blitz those surfaces, utensils and hands, cook thoroughly and job done!

  • Campylobacter

    Bacteria - CampylobacterCampylobacter (Camp-I-Low-Back-Ter) are particularly nasty bacteria that can cause diarrhoea and acute abdominal pain, as well as potential long term side effects from reactive arthritis to Guillain Barré syndrome, where sufferers experience varying degrees of paralysis.

    Campylobacter can also kill – there are up to 85 deaths per year from this organism, and in 2012 there were 72,000 reported cases in the UK. Of course many cases are not reported as people don’t always go to the doctor, and a recent report suggested that for every case of food poisoning that the GP sees, there are 147 extra cases in the community.

    Campylobacter doesn’t grow in food; it grows in the body and is highly infectious. Only 500 bacteria are needed to cause symptoms – this was found out by a scientist swallowing 500 organisms that he had put into a glass of milk!

    The most common carriers of Campylobacter are chickens. In a survey carried out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), 65% of retail chickens were found to be carrying the organism and the FSA estimates that 60-80% of cases can be blamed on chicken. Recent outbreaks have been traced back to chicken liver parfait served in restaurants.

    Where is Campylobacter contracted?

    With an incubation period of 3-5 days it is difficult to identify what has caused one off cases, but we certainly can’t always blame our local restaurant. In fact we should more often blame ourselves!

    Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at the FSA points out that there is a bit of a taboo in thinking that we might be at fault.
    “People don’t like to admit that the germs might have come from their own home but it’s a common myth to think that food poisoning only comes from a dodgy takeaway.”

    Keeping Campylobacter under control

    The main causes of illness are cross-contamination, where the bugs are moved from one place to another, and not cooking to the right temperature. Both of these are very easy to avoid with some simple hygiene in the kitchen.

    But with some sources telling you to use anti-bacterial products and others telling you that hot soapy water will do the trick, who are you to believe?

    Well, common sense will tell you that if water is hot enough to kill bacteria, it’s too hot for you to put your hand into, so hot soapy water just won’t do the trick. Then it won’t just be on your surfaces, but on your cloth, in your sink and all over the washing up that you think is actually clean!

    So make sure that you always use an anti-bacterial spray on any surface that might have come into contact with raw poultry and meat. Plastic chopping boards and knives can be put into the dishwasher as long as the cycle reaches temperatures of 65° C for at least 30 minutes. You don’t need to go crazy with products, just spray the surface, leave for a few moments then wipe with a paper towel or rinse under the tap. I wouldn’t put my family at risk by failing to do this – and I can assure you, I don’t get through bucket loads of product!

    The other very simple control is cooking. Advice such as “cook till piping hot”, “till the juices run clear”, “till there is no pinkness” is all over the place. However, it is well known that colour is not an indication of “doneness”. The only real test is actual temperature in the thickest part of the meat. That’s what we tell caterers to do – so why not advise people cooking in the home to do the same? The simple message, is don’t guess, cook to 75 °C in the centre and you will have killed Campylobacter. A simple probe thermometer can help with this for as little as £15. Obviously the probe needs disinfecting – boiling water or anti-bacterial spray can be used.

    Finally it is essential that after handling raw chicken everyone washes their hands thoroughly using soap, warm water and dries their hands on a paper towel, preferably.

    Some top tips to prevent Campylobacter laying you up for 2 weeks:

    • Cook chicken to 75 °C in the core use a probe thermometer
    • Minimise the mess – get all the utensils and ingredients out before you start to prepare chicken – it reduces the spread from your hands to handles etc
    • Clean up immediately after handling chicken and blitz any areas that may have Campylobacter on them using a good quality anti-bacterial spray – leave on for a few minutes and wipe away with paper towels. Anti-bacterial wipes are good as well. Spray the sink and taps to make sure they are not contaminated.
    • Wash your hands thoroughly using soap and warm water, get in between the fingers and thumbs and soap up round your nails. Dry with a paper towel
    • If you enjoy a glass of wine when you are cooking, don’t get Campylobacter all over the rim – wait till you have finished preparing the raw chicken and have cleaned up!
    • If you use a cloth, then you need to wash it at over 60 °C or boil it up in a saucepan just like my granny used to do – it’s fun to see the colour of the water!

  • BBQ Hygiene in the garden

    Is your Garden Hygienic?

    Is your Garden Hygienic for Summer?

    Well summer is here isn’t it? Are we sturdy Brits going to pretend it’s nice and warm this weekend and get out in the garden? But before you do, have a quick think about what may be lurking on the BBQ and patio, chairs and tables and spend a few minutes making sure that it is safe for your family and friends. We are not talking about getting a sterile garden of course – that would be ridiculous, but here are some pointers of where a bit of cleaning at the right time in the right place may just help prevent illness if you are intending to eat outside.

    Read more

  • Are you washing up in a bacterial soup?

    Dr Lisa Ackerley was commissioned to find out how people were washing up

    Recently for the Stop Washing Up Campaign we carried out a survey to see what people got up to when they washed up.

     Key findings were:

    • Water was too cold to kill bacteria -most families were using lukewarm water!
    • Washing up bowls were contaminated with bacteria
    • 95% of scourers and sponges were disgusting – some even had E. coli on them!
    • 60% of tea towels were unsatisfactory – some also had E.coli on them
    • People use their sinks for cleaning all sorts of items – from dog bowls to football boots!Read More

    The trouble I have found is that if water is hot enough temperature to kill bacteria –  then it could burn your hands!

    But if you don’t kill dangerous bacteria that could be present on raw meat and poultry, then this could make you ill.

    What can you do? In this video I discuss washing up by hand.



    It makes you want to rush out and get a dishwasher!

    Dishwashers can give you reassurance of a hygienic washIf you can’t afford a dishwasher, you will still need to kill dangerous bacteria which may survive unless your dish washing water temperature is above 60 °C (this would scald you)!

    Here are some tips:

    • If you prepare raw chicken or meat clean utensils and work surfaces with an anti-bacterial spray and paper towel
    • After washing up, pour a final hot water rinse over crockery and utensil to kill the bacteria
    • Change your tea towel every day and wash them at 60 °C or above
    • Wash your dishcloths with tea towels (I gather up a few days’ worth and then do them all together)
    • Drain your dishes in a clean drainer (check out the cutlery drainer – it quickly gets horrid)!