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For that fondue meat doesn't make you sick

50/2021, 17.12.2021

Food-borne infections with Campylobacter bacteria can be avoided by good kitchen hygiene

Meat fondues or raclette meals with the simultaneous preparation of raw meat, fresh vegetables and various sauces are popular during the cold season. However, pathogens present in raw meat can be transferred to ready-to-eat food if they are on the same plate or come into contact with the same utensils. Good kitchen hygiene should be guaranteed when handling raw food of animal origin at the dining table or in the kitchen. To this end, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has published a leaflet with consumer tips on protection against food-borne infections with Campylobacter and other foodborne bacteria. In this way, the BfR again points out the necessity for food hygiene to protect against infection: "Campylobacter infections can be avoided by separating consequently raw meat - in particular poultry - from food which is consumed without further heating," says BfR president Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "Good kitchen hygiene also includes consistent cleaning of hands, kitchen utensils and surfaces after contact with raw food of animal origin and before preparation of other ingredients of a meal". Infection with Campylobacter bacteria is the most frequently reported food-borne bacterial disease in Germany and the EU. In the year 2020, 46,519 cases were registered in Germany. In particular, small children and young adults become frequently infected. The consequences are diarrhoea and in some cases serious nerve diseases and reactive arthritis.

European authorities are also paying special attention to the frequency of Campylobacter infections in humans, for example in the report on the zoonosis situation in the EU in 2019. Campylobacteriosis has been the most frequently reported bacterial, food-borne disease in Europe and Germany for many years. The infection trend stabilised between 2015 and 2019. Infections with Campylobacter occur more frequently in the summer months. In 2020, as in previous years, Germany recorded a seasonal infection peak in the months of June to September. In addition, there is an annually recurring short-term increase in the number of cases at the beginning of the year. In a recently published study, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) was able to show a correlation between Campylobacter enteritis cases after Christmas and New Year's Eve and meat fondues or raclette meals on the holidays, especially if chicken meat was offered.

Campylobacter bacteria occur all over the world in pets and domestic animals as well as in the environment. They often find their way into foods through milking or slaughtering. Campylobacter is detected particularly often in raw poultry meat. However, other raw or insufficiently heated foods of animal origin, such as hen eggs, raw milk and raw meat products (e.g. steak tartare), can also contain these pathogens. The bacteria can also spread to other foods during preparation due to poor hygiene and can result in illness after consumption of these foods. Even very few Campylobacter bacteria can cause intestinal infections in humans, which are typically accompanied by stomach ache and diarrhoea. Nerve diseases (such as the Guillain-Barré syndrome) and reactive arthritis can also occur as rare complications.

To avoid the consumption of foods contaminated with Campylobacter, care should be taken in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination of food with bacteria from different sources. Cross-contamination means the transfer of germs from one usually raw food item to another foodstuff. The bacteria can transfer directly from unpacked foodstuff to another.  Indirect transfer via hands, equipment, work surfaces, knives and other kitchen utensils is also possible. For instance, bacteria can be transferred from uncooked fondue meat to cooked meat or ready-to-eat salad, for example, if the cooking utensils and the plates are not changed.

As Campylobacter bacteria do not lead to food spoilage, their presence cannot be recognised by spoilage odour of a dish. Like most food-borne pathogens, Campylobacter can be killed by heating, i.e. by boiling, frying, roasting or pasteurising. The prerequisite is that a temperature of 70°C has been reached in the core of the food for at least two minutes. Deep-freezing, however, cannot completely kill Campylobacter, but only reduce the number of germs.

The leaflet "Protection against foodborne infections with Campylobacter" is available for downloading at the BfR website and can also be ordered free of charge:

The BfR has also released two video clips "What to do with the chicken" and "Tracking down germs" on the subject of kitchen hygiene:

Report by the EFSA and ECDC:

Press release on the RKI study on Campylobacter enteritis after Christmas and New Year's Eve:

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific 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.

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

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Publications - Merkblätter für Verbraucher

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Date Title Size
06.03.2019
Merkblatt für Verbraucher
Verbrauchertipps: Schutz vor lebensmittelbedingten Infektionen mit Campylobacter 311.2 KB
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