Campylobacter is a nasty little bug and a very common cause of the old ‘hubble bubble, toilet trouble’ as spoken of in the Scottish play. Mostly it’s three days of total emptiness but it can last much longer. You’ll feel like you must have really, really annoyed a professional drain cleaner at some point. Occasionally it can lead to paralysis or death.
It’s more dangerous than Salmonella because Salmonella is on the inner and outer surfaces of the chicken and easily killed by cooking. Campylobacter is also easily killed by cooking but it’s invasive. It’s inside the meat. Just taking the surface above 80 deg C will render a chicken Salmonella-free but to be sure of getting rid of Campylobacter, every cubic centimetre of that meat must exceed 80 deg C right through the whole thing.
And yet… and yet the supermarkets do not put it in chickens. The Food Standards Agency seem to think they do, that supermarkets are responsible for contaminating chickens with this beastly little bacterium. Trust me on this: at no point in the processing or supply chain is anyone adding a pinch of bacteria to those chickens.
The truth about Campylobacter is… nobody is really sure how it gets into chickens and chicken-farms are putting a lot of effort into stopping it.
All chicks hatch out Campylobacter-free. It first appears in them at around three weeks of age. There are theories as to why, but no certainty of where it comes from. Chicken farms already use a vaccine against Salmonella, delivered through drinking water, but no such vaccine yet exists for Campylobacter.
It’s in the chickens as they grow and so far, there is not a damn thing anyone can do about it. Many people are trying though, and trying very hard.
That ‘name and shame’ is a farce. It’s a snapshot. There will be considerable variability in the chicken supplied to every shop and sometimes, someone will get a more heavily infected batch.
Shops cannot test every single bird. Would you accept a chicken with a hole in it where the test sample was cut out? Even then it’s just a sample. Not the whole bird. The contaminant is not necessarily evenly spread.
The Food Standards Agency should know and understand all this,. It’s simple, basic microbiology. That they evidently understand none of it is a damning indictment indeed.
Not on supermarkets. On the parlous state of modern science.