Roger B. Harvey USDA

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Campylobacter in the Pork Food Chain

Publish Date: 09/24/2007

Campylobacteriosis is a serious foodborne disease in which pork could be implicated. Campylobacter bacteria have been found in the intestinal tract of domestic and wild mammals, poultry, wild birds, and in untreated water and unpasteurized milk. Infection in piglets can occur as early as the first 24 hours after birth. The likely route of transmission is from the sow to the newborn; however, the exact routes by which food animals become infected have not been clearly defined. The predominant species of Campylobacter in pigs is C. coli, whereas the predominant species in poultry and cattle is C. jejuni. Most human infections in the U.S. are associated with C. jejuni, whereas in Europe, high incidence of human infection with C. coli is also reported. With the exception of abortion in sheep, food animals that are colonized with Campylobacter usually dont have any clinical signs. A high percentage of animals at slaughter are infected and this is also an important phase in the farm-to-table continuum where Campylobacter usually enters the food chain. Human foodborne Campylobacter infection most commonly comes from consuming food that is contaminated or cross-contaminated (i.e. uncontaminated foods that came in contact with contaminated sources) at the post-harvest level. Campylobacter can be routinely isolated from retail meat products with the highest frequency found in poultry. Most control methods center on the prevention of contamination and cross-contamination along the food chain. Campylobacter does not grow well in food. In that respect, it is different from Salmonella or Staphylococcus which can multiply in poorly stored food.

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