About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Topic of the Day - High rate of infection reported in Irish Chickens

Thursday, 18 March 2010

High rate of infection reported in Irish chickens

A report by the European Food Safety Authority claims Ireland has one of the highest incidences of chicken contaminated with campylobacter in Europe. It has emerged that 98% of Irish chickens are believed to contain the dangerous bacteria. Chicken carcasses examined by food inspectors were found to have been infected by the bug, which has replaced salmonella as the main source of food-borne illness in humans in Ireland.

Campylobacter bacterium can lead to gastroenteritis through the consumption of contaminated poultry which has been under-cooked. Some of the symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, nausea and vomiting.

The food safety authority's report has found that 83 per cent of chickens entering Irish slaughterhouses are infected, the highest figure in Europe outside Malta and Spain. The EU average was 71 per cent. Bacteria are killed by proper cooking, while strict kitchen hygiene also helps to reduce the risks involved.

Joining us in studio is Dermot Moriarty from Safefood, the food safety promotion board.

Safefood advises consumers to take the following measures in the home when preparing or handling chicken:
. chicken meat should not be washed
. all utensils and surfaces that come into contact with raw chicken should be cleaned after use
. hands should be washed thoroughly after handling raw poultry meat
. chicken should be cooked thoroughly until it is piping hot all the way through, the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear
C or less?. raw chicken should be stored in the refrigerator at 5
. raw chicken should be covered when stored in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf to keep it away from ready-to-eat foods.
. raw chicken should be placed in separate bags or containers during transport home from the retailer
. leftover chicken should always be reheated until piping hot all the way through and should NEVER be reheated more than once
. refrigerated leftover chicken should be eaten within three days
Safefood is one of a number of public service organisations active in food safety and related areas. Safefood provides accessible service and information for those interested in food safety
For more in on to keep you food safe, you can find information on


What is it?

Campylobacter is a bacterium found in the intestines of many types of animals and is the most common bacterial cause of diarrhoeal illness. Campylobacter infections are equally common in males and females, with babies and children in the 0-4 age group more likely to be affected. It has been found to be more prevalent during the summer months.

How can I be exposed to this infection?

Campylobacter infection is mainly spread from animals and humans. In animals Campylobacter may be isolated from a wide range of healthy animals such as domestic cats and dogs, birds, cattle, pigs, poultry and goats. It may be easily spread from animal to animal through contact with infected faeces or through a common water supply.

Individuals may become infected through consumption of the organism in undercooked chicken and pork, contaminated water, unpasteurised milk and through contact with infected domestic or farm animals. Although poultry are seen as a significant source of human infection, eggs are not usually contaminated with Campylobacter.

How do I know if I have a Campylobacter infection?

After an incubation period of between 3-5 days, one or more of the following symptoms may appear; abdominal pain, diarrhoea (often bloody) with nausea and fever, however, there is usually no vomiting. In most cases the diarrhoea is self-limiting and may persist for up to 10 days. If you are pregnant, infection may not have any effect on the unborn child but the illness is unpleasant and best avoided.

How can it be treated?

In almost all cases you will recover without treatment over time. Fatalities are unusual. You should always exercise caution though and visit your doctor who may prescribe antibiotics or fluid and electrolyte replacement, depending upon the severity of the infection. In addition, drink plenty of water while the diarrhoea persists.