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Campylobacter – the germ on chicken eggs

18/2018, 11.05.2018

The most important bacterial diarrhoea pathogen can be transmitted via eggshells – but protection is possible

Eggs are a popular food. In fact, Germans consumed almost 20 billion of them in 2016, which equates to a per capita consumption of 235 eggs. It is therefore easy to understand why the detection of chemicals in eggs, such as the insecticide fipronil recently, caused quite a stir, not to say an outrage. What is largely unknown, though, is that the most common bacterial pathogen for food infections is also to be found on chicken eggs. We are talking about Campylobacter bacteria, which cause intestinal inflammation (enteritis) accompanied by stomach ache, fever and – sometimes even bloody – diarrhoea. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has now determined the level of knowledge about the occurrence of Campylobacter on chicken eggs and is giving advice on how infections can be prevented.

Link to opinion: Hygiene for chicken eggs – protection from Campylobacter

Roughly 70,000 cases of Campylobacter enteritis are reported to the Robert Koch-Institute every year, with a slight increase expected. Furthermore, there is a large number of unreported cases. The disease- induced by bacteria usually originates from chicken intestines in which they live but cannot cause harm. These bacteria are often transferred to humans via insufficiently cooked chicken meat. Although the infection risk through chicken eggs is estimated to be much lower, infection can be spread through bacteria-containing excrement which sticks to the eggshell. Food companies should therefore reduce the contamination of chicken eggs with chicken excrement through hygiene measures during production and packaging.

“The risk of infection can be reduced even further by maintaining good kitchen hygiene,” explains BfR President, Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. “Kitchen utensils and hands should be washed thoroughly after contact with raw eggs. And if dishes that have been prepared with eggs are heated sufficiently, Campylobacter and other disease pathogens are killed reliably.”

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

The BfR is 15 years old. To mark the occasion, the Institute has published a jubilee brochure which can be downloaded or ordered free of charge at

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.


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