Published on 16th June 2014

skewers of meat cooking on a barbecue

Food safety week 16-20 June 2014

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK and can affect up to 250,000 people a year, that's nearly enough to fill London's Olympic stadium three times over. Food Safety Week 2014 will be focusing on Campylobacter and how it can be controlled. Cheltenham Borough Council urges local people to follow advice from the Food Standards Agency throughout Food Safety Week.

Campylobacter is most commonly found on raw poultry. It has no smell or taste and you can’t see it on food, but it can have a very unpleasant effect if digested. It can require hospital treatment and at its worst, it can kill you.

The Food Standards agency is spearheading this campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. Farmers and producers will be asked to work harder to reduce the amount of bacteria on their raw poultry. Consumers are being asked not to wash chicken before cooking it, as this can transfer bacteria onto hands, arms and onto kitchen work surfaces.

Cheltenham Borough council, other national authorities, supermarkets and key partners will be working together to make sure people know how to stay safe. For more information, visit

Bob Martin, head of foodborne disease strategy at the Food Standards Agency said: “This is a serious problem and we are calling on the whole industry to do act together to tackle Campylobacter. People in Cheltenham can do their part by handling and preparing chicken with extra care – don’t wash raw chicken, cook it properly and enjoy it safely.”

Sarah Clark, public and environmental health team leader at Cheltenham Borough Council said: “I’m sure many people across Cheltenham have been affected by food poisoning at some point, whether they have contracted the illness themselves or they know of someone who has. Thankfully, if you handle and prepare food safely, then food poisoning such as Campylobacter is usually easily preventable. I would encourage Cheltenham residents to look at the Food Standards Agency website at, to find tips on how to prepare food (including chicken) safely.”

Rowena Hay, cabinet member for healthy lifestyles added: “It’s important that the people of Cheltenham and business that provide food really take notice of the valuable advice the FSA are offering throughout the week. Poisoning is usually preventable as long as the preparation process is safe.”


For press enquiries, contact: Tom Wheatly, web and communications apprentice, telephone 01242 775192 or email: [email protected].

Notes for editors:

  1. Campylobacter poisoning usually develops a few days after consuming contaminated food and leads to symptoms that include abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and, sometimes, vomiting, It can last for between 2 and 10 days and can be particularly severe in small children and the elderly. In some cases, it can affect you forever - sparking off irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reactive arthritis and in rare cases, Guillain-Barré syndrome – a serious and sometimes permanent condition of the nervous system.
  2. About four in five cases of campylobacter poisoning in the UK come from contaminated poultry. One of the main ways to get and spread campylobacter poisoning is through touching raw chicken. FSA advice is not to wash raw chicken. Germs can be spread to kitchen surfaces, clothing and utensils.
  3. On a quarterly basis over the next year, the FSA will release the results of tests carried out on about 1,000 samples of chicken being sold by UK retailers. The information published for each sample will include details about where the chicken was bought, the abattoir that processed it, whether or not the sample contained campylobacter and if so, how heavily it was contaminated.
  4. Everyone is working hard to solve this:
  • UK Government to lobby in the EU for better hygiene controls, and to hold industry to account
  • Farmers and producers to reduce the number of flocks of broilers (chickens grown for meat) that contain campylobacter when they are presented for slaughter;
  • Slaughterhouses and processors to make sure that the processes they use keep levels of contamination in the birds they produce to a minimum.
  • Caterers to make sure that they and their staff are aware of the risks from raw poultry and work harder to avoid cross-contamination during handling or from under-cooking.
  • Local government partners to help raise awareness of Campylobacter and ensure that food businesses using chilled poultry meat are aware of the risks and keeping to the highest standards of hygiene.
  • Retailers and supermarkets to play their role by advising their customers not to wash raw chicken and to cook it thoroughly.
  • Consumers to reflect on whether the way that they handle food in their homes risks food poisoning for themselves and their families.