Epidemiology and Infection

Short Report

Campylobacter and gastrointestinal infections

A recipe for disaster: outbreaks of campylobacteriosis associated with poultry liver pâté in England and Wales

C. L. LITTLEa1 c1, F. J. GORMLEYa1, N. RAWALa1 and J. F. RICHARDSONa1

a1 Department of Gastrointestinal, Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections, London, UK

SUMMARY

Despite the frequency of Campylobacter as the principal cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in the UK, outbreaks attributed to this pathogen are rare. One hundred and fourteen general foodborne outbreaks of campylobacteriosis were reported to the Health Protection Agency from 1992 to 2009 with most occurring in food service establishments (64%, 73/114). Poultry meat (38%, 43/114) was the most commonly reported vehicle of infection, of which poultry liver pâté, and undercooking, were strongly associated with this pathogen. Notably, the number of outbreaks of campylobacteriosis linked to consumption of poultry liver pâté in England and Wales increased significantly from 2007 (74% as opposed to 12%, P<0·00001) with a preponderance of these occurring in December. These outbreaks highlight the hazards associated with inappropriate culinary practices leading to undercooking of poultry liver pâté and suggest that improving catering practice is an important last line of defence in reducing exposure to Campylobacter-contaminated products.

(Accepted July 28 2010)

(Online publication August 23 2010)

Correspondence:

c1 Author for correspondence: Dr C. L. Little, Department of Gastrointestinal, Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections, 61 Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5EQ, UK. (Email: christine.little@hpa.org.uk)

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