Stating the obvious perhaps, keeping food safe for consumers is undeniably a key priority for the food industry and governments alike. European funds are being injected into understanding the bacteria that find a home in our food supply with a new joint project targeting the emerging prevalence of Campylobacteraceae.
In the last decade of the twentieth century, the number of reported cases of gastro-enteritis, caused by the bacteria Campylobacter rose in Western industrialised nations, but there remains a lack of information on the prevalence of emerging Campylobacteraceae. A joint European, US and South African project that started seven months ago is aiming to develop methods capable of isolating and identifying these bacteria.
Once the campycheck project has improved isolation, detection and identification procedures for the analysis of Campylobacteraceae in the food and water chain, the food industry can fully get to grips with risk analysis, discussing the issue with industry, consumers and government.
Many different bacteria are included in the family Campylobacteraceae. Most of them have been associated with disease in animals and man. For example, Campylobacter jejuni is the major cause of human gastro-enteritis worldwide, responsible for 400 to 500 million cases of diarrhoea each year.
Although Campylobacter are easily destroyed by food processing because they are sensitive to heat, dehydration and acid environments, they can survive for long periods in frozen foods and moist environments.
Campylobacter are present in the intestinal tract of wild and domestic animals such as poultry, pork, beef and lamb, where they usually cause few or no symptoms. Raw or incompletely cooked food products, such as raw poultry, inadequately pasteurised milk and contaminated drinking water may be infectious agents. Usually the symptoms - diarrhoea, high fever, headache - occur within 1 to 7 days after contamination.
Food safety in Europe takes a front seat at the Food Safety & Hygiene event running alongside the upcoming Fi Europe exhibition in Frankfurt next month.