Campylobacter is the second most common cause of food poisoning in the United States, right behind Salmonella. Campylobacter food poisoning is usually caused by the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni (although there are other types of Campylobacter that can also cause food poisoning). Eating as few as 500 of these microscopic bacteria can cause illness. As with other food-borne illnesses, this disease more commonly affects young children, older adults, pregnant women, and anyone with a compromised immune system.
Most cases of Campylobacter food poisoning are from eating raw or undercooked poultry, or from cross-contamination of other foods. Raw milk can also contain Campylobacter. Just one drop of juice from a raw chicken breast can carry enough Campylobacter bacteria to make someone sick! All raw poultry can carry Salmonella and Campylobacter, but not all of it does. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell if your chicken is carrying either of these potentially dangerous bacteria by looking at them. But it is possible to reduce your family’s risk of becoming sick from these bacteria with a few easy at-home practices.
- Don’t wash poultry before cooking it. Rinsing raw poultry can spread bacteria around your kitchen, potentially cross-contaminating a large area with bacteria.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food.
- Keep all raw poultry separate from produce.
- Wash all produce before preparing it.
- Use separate cutting boards for produce and raw poultry.
- Cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Perishable foods should not be kept at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
Remember, signs of Campylobacter food poisoning don’t start to show until 2-5 days after the contaminated food was eaten. It might be difficult to pinpoint exactly what was contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria to make you sick. Call a doctor if anyone in your family has a fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, or any other signs that you think might be food poisoning.