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Hygiene: chicken schnitzel with risk of infection

  • Every other piece of chicken that Controllers tested in 2017 was contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria.
  • The problem is not new, but most consumers do not even know the germ. He can cause violent diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.
  • The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture points to a lack of hygiene in the slaughterhouses.

Viewed through a microscope, Campylobacter bacteria actually look pretty funny. Small chopsticks, some straight, some crooked, with one or two fins at their ends. With that they move on. It's no longer funny when you get infected with these microbes. After a few days there will be abdominal pain, severe, sometimes bloody diarrhea, violent fever. The spook is usually over after two weeks at the latest, if the victim does not have a pre-existing condition that makes things worse.

All the more worries now a number for concern, which became known after a request of the Green party leader Anton Hofreiter to the Federal Government: Well, every second chicken fresh meat sample was in a study in 2017 with pathogens of the type Campylobacter, so diarrhea loaded. According to the response prepared by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), 51.8 percent of the 407 pieces of chicken examined were contaminated during the investigation. In 2011, only 31.6 percent of the samples found microbes of this kind in their samples.

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The problem is not new. It is not without reason that packaged poultry are often advised to cook the meat completely and pay attention to special hygiene. Nevertheless, Campylobacter is now the most common bacterial agent of intestinal infections in Germany and other European countries. The Robert Koch Institute in Berlin counts 60,000 to 70,000 cases of this reportable infection every year. Most often affected are children under the age of five and young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 years.

The least Germans know the pathogen. According to consumer monitor of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) from last year, although 97 percent of Germans have already heard of salmonella, which also cause diarrhea, but only 20 percent know something to start with the name Campylobakter. There are many types of Campylobacter, not all make you sick. Some also live as inconspicuous housemates in the human digestive tract. Most pathogenic Campylobacter microbes are from the gut of animals.

According to BfR, fresh poultry meat is the most important source of human Campylobacter infections. But even untreated milk and chicken eggs can transport the pathogens, especially if the latter are visibly contaminated with chicken droppings. Pigs also harbor the bacteria in their intestines, but on spot checks, inspectors found no pathogens in the meat, indicating that the microbes are being distributed during chicken processing. The BfR therefore speaks of a "significant carry-over" in the poultry meat chain.

The Central Association of the German poultry industry ZDG, however, writes in an opinion on the numbers, they do "everything possible to minimize the occurrence of Campylobacter germs as best as possible". In addition, there is ultimately no freedom in any natural food, optimal hygiene can reduce the risk at best.

How the "continuously optimized hygiene" fits to an increasing number of Campylobacter finds in poultry meat leaves the association open. However, it is possible that the situation has already improved. Since the beginning of 2018, slaughterhouses have had to examine meat samples weekly for the pathogen. This is to prevent the sale of poultry meat with high numbers of germs. Whether this works and in the end actually fewer people get sick with Campylobacter, the statisticians can read from the data in a few years at the earliest.

The Federal Food Ministry pointed out on Friday that the rising numbers are also related to improved laboratory diagnostics in the text procedures. In addition, it is well known that "a microbial burden is often due to a lack of compliance with hygiene measures in slaughterhouses".

For the time being only care in the own kitchen protects against infections. Cook the meat completely. Do not get in contact with other foods that are consumed raw. And last but not least: Thoroughly clean your hands, knives and cutting boards.

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