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6.4 Infection and environment
O6-4.5 Regulation works: controlling New Zealand's campylobacteriosis epidemic caused by contaminated chicken meat
  1. M Baker1,
  2. A Sears1,
  3. N Wilson1,
  4. N French2
  1. 1University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, New Zealand


Background The New Zealand epidemic of campylobacteriosis increased steadily from 1989 onwards, peaking in 2006 with a national rate of over 380 notified cases per 100 000 population. At the peak there were an estimated 120 000 cases a year in the community, and 800 hospitalisations. This rate was markedly higher than that reported by other developed countries. Interventions were introduced to lower contamination levels in fresh chicken meat, notably mandatory monitoring and reporting of Campylobacter in broiler flocks and carcass rinsates, and mandatory Campylobacter carcass performance targets.

Methods National notification and hospitalisation data for the period 1997 to 2008 were analysed to describe disease incidence and distribution. Source attribution techniques based on bacterial typing of Campylobacter isolates from human cases and environmental sources were also used to examine the decline.

Results Directly following implementation of the regulatory measures, the 2008 campylobacteriosis notification rate declined by 54% and the hospitalisation rate by 56% (compared to the average annual rates for 2002–2006). Source attribution studies suggested an approximate 70% decline in human disease with chicken meat as the source.

Conclusions These marked reductions in disease incidence directly followed the introduction of regulatory interventions to reduce Campylobacter contamination of chicken meat. Measures aimed at lowering contamination of raw food appeared far more effective than educational approaches aimed at improving food handling by consumers. Changes to established food production and processing methods may initially be resisted by the food industry, highlighting the need for science-based public health advocacy and regulation. High quality public health surveillance of disease and hazards can also help drive improvements in food safety.

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