Reports indicate New Zealand is recording the world's highest infection rates for the Campylobacter bacteria. In this regard the researchers from the University of Otago are seeking a ban on the sale of fresh chicken.
A study conducted by the university's Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, that has been published in the international journal Epidemiology and Infection has shown infection rates in New Zealand, three times higher than those reported in neighbouring Australia, and 30 times higher than in the US. Michael Baker, the study's lead researcher, explains that immediate action should be considered so as to control the infection, which causes diarrhoea, severe stomach cramps, fever, and nausea.
Stating that the consumption of chicken is probably responsible for at least half of infections, Baker warned that the government should seriously consider banning the sale of fresh chicken for human consumption and New Zealand should immediately shift to selling frozen poultry. The Food Safety Authority (FSA) on the other hand claim that it has no evidence to prove that banning sales of fresh chicken would improve New Zealand's Campylobacter infection rates.
Roger Cook the FSA spokesperson said that the authority is still in doubt as to whether bacteria on the chicken causes human infection, or if freezing it will affect the infection rate. Cook further stated that consumers usually do prefer frozen chicken but this would escalate enormously the industry costs. He also mentioned that the industry is looking closely at decontamination washes.
Meanwhile the Poultry Industry Association have said that banning the sale of fresh chicken will not solve New Zealand's Campylobacter epidemic. It stated that the proportion of fresh to frozen chicken available in New Zealand is much similar to other countries and there probably are other elements that are contributing to the high infection rate.
Campylobacter causes stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhoea in humans and reports have indicated that the number of cases reported in May this year, 1425, were nearly twice as much as May last year, 748. The researchers explained that while the disease did have several sources, fresh chicken, is a major cause of the epidemic. Environmental Science and Research (ESR) surveys have also found that not only is the raw meat infected, but also Campylobacter is also present on the outside of chicken packaging.