The sale of fresh chicken in supermarkets should be banned in a bid
to curb the worsening campylobacter epidemic in New Zealand, according to
scientists who have been researching the bacteria's growing
Rates of the bacteria in New Zealand have nearly trebled in the past 15 years
to the highest in the world, three times that of Australia, and 30 times higher
than the United States, according to a new Otago University
Otago University researchers Michael Baker and Nick Wilson
estimate chicken causes about
50,000 campylobacter infections and 400 hospitalisations a year, costing the
country at least $40 million.
Reported cases of campylobacter - which
causes stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhoea in humans - were 1425 in May, nearly
twice the 748 cases reported to authorities in May 2005.
disease has several sources, researchers say fresh chicken is a major cause of
the epidemic. Not only is the raw meat infected, but Environmental Science and
Research (ESR) surveys have also found campylobacter on the outside of chicken
Their new study, published in the international journal
Epidemiology and Infection, said the high rates showed researching and fighting
the disease should be a public health priority.
Researchers said the
poultry industry had dodged the issue for 10 years, tending to blame the public
for not handling chicken properly.
"This is like blaming the consumer
who finds half a mouse in their meat pie," they said.
said that freezing the meat reduced contamination, and fresh chicken should be
banned until it can be shown to have minimal contamination.
Industry representatives, however, believe this is a knee jerk response, and
ban on the sale of fresh chicken in necessary.