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Sociable, enjoyable, dangerous? What is important when preparing fondue and raclette

32/2023, 15.12.2023

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

Little pieces of meat and vegetables from the raclette pan or fondue fork are a popular way to warm up on the inside when it is cold outside. However, pathogens that may be present on raw meat may be transferred to food during the preparation and cooking of the ingredients, which are then eaten without further heating. For example, if ingredients are on the same plate or come into contact with the same cutlery. Good kitchen hygiene should therefore be guaranteed when handling raw food of animal origin in the kitchen or at the dining table. "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 2022, 43,166 cases were registered in Germany. The number of unreported cases is significantly higher. In particular, small children and young adults become frequently infected. The consequences are diarrhoea and in some cases serious nerve diseases and reactive arthritis.

Infections with Campylobacter bacteria show a seasonal course and occur more frequently in the summer months. In addition, there is an annually recurring short-term increase in the number of cases at the beginning of the year. In a 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 fondue or raclette meals during the holidays, especially if chicken meat was offered.

Good kitchen hygiene is essential: To avoid infections with Campylobacter bacteria, 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.

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.

Further information on foodborne infections on the BfR website

Fact sheet "Protection against foodborne infections with Campylobacter" (German)

Video clips "What to do with the chicken" and "Tracking down germs" (German)

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


About the BfR

The German 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. The BfR advises the Federal Government and the States (‘Laender’) on questions of food, chemicals and product safety. The BfR conducts independent 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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