NZFSA has recently updated its Campylobacter in Poultry Risk Management Strategy to include some stringent additions that we anticipate will lead to significant reductions in this country’s high levels of human campylobacteriosis.
Implementing the strategy is designed to deliver the greatest reductions in bacteria numbers as early as possible in the processing food chain. Together with the poultry industry, NZFSA will introduce an interim performance target mandated from 1 April 2008. This should help reduce human cases of foodborne campylobacteriosis acquired in New Zealand by 50% over the next five years, the main aim of the interventions.
This time lag will allow industry sufficient time to put the necessary changes to production systems in place, and introduce new food safety technologies. With the support of the poultry industry, NZFSA will take strong action against premises that do not meet the target. Ultimately, sanctions could escalate to closing down poor-performing premises. Mandating a performance target means industry can make whatever interventions they see fit, while still reducing the disease burden.
While poultry is recognised as the primary pathway for over half the country’s reported rates of foodborne campylobacteriosis, there are other routes of exposure. In association with other interested government departments, we are looking at the environment, other foods and domestic animals to reduce the country’s unacceptably high infection rates.
In 2006 at least 15,873 (383.5 per 100,000 people) contracted the disease, 969 (7.3%) were hospitalised and there was one fatality. Experts attribute some 60% of the annual total to be caused by food. Risk modeling and food attribution work to date suggest that of the foodborne cases over 60% may be poultry associated.
NZFSA continues to stress the need for ongoing consumer vigilance in the home. While everything possible is presently being done to improve this country’s high rates of campylobacteriosis, New Zealanders need to heed our simple ‘Clean, Cook, Cover, Chill’ and ‘20 seconds wash + 20 seconds dry = clean hands’ messages, which will help ensure they have the best chance of avoiding campylobacteriosis, as well as most other foodborne illnesses.
The overall objectives of NZFSA’s Campylobacter strategy are to:
• reduce the incidence of foodborne human campylobacteriosis
• better quantify proportion of cases attributable to poultry
• understand the relative value of different interventions throughout the food chain in reducing risks to human health
• provide the basis for informed risk management decisions and their implementation
• design and implement an ongoing monitoring and review programme.
One of the key work areas coming out of the strategy is increased surveillance to better understand the situation here, including:
• enhanced surveillance of potentially foodborne enteric diseases in New Zealand
• comparing human and poultry Campylobacter isolates
• determining the relative contribution of food pathways to the burden of human campylobacteriosis in NZ
• determining the incidence of foodborne human campylobacteriosis from poultry relative to other sources.
Further information about NZFSA’s strategy is available online at www.nzfsa.govt.nz/publications/news-current-issues/campy-main-web-page.htm.
Published in Food NZ, February/March 2008