20 Dec 2015

Epidemic 'could be turned off overnight'

3:58 pm on 20 December 2015

A public health researcher wants the way poultry is prepared and sold changed to stop what he calls a campylobacter epidemic.

Campylobacter jejuni bacteria

Campylobacter jejuni (pictured) can cause severe food poisoning. Photo: 123rf

Otago University professor of public health Michael Baker said more than 30,000 New Zealanders suffered from the severe food poisoning from poultry each year.

It's the country's biggest food safety problem but was easy to fix, he said.

"We can lower the regulatory limit of campylobacter in fresh poultry. Now this was introduced seven or eight years ago and when it was done it resulted in a halving of our disease rate.

"We think a regulatory limit needs to be dropped to a much lower level, and that would virtually turn off this epidemic overnight."

He called for a lower allowable limit, data showing which companies have the best and worst rates of contamination, and better warning labels.

A Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman said the current food safety system was robust and it was not considering any further measures.

Have you had campylobacter recently? If you would like to share your story with an RNZ reporter, please send an email with contact details to: iwitness@radionz.co.nz