The level of Campylobacter in Swedish poultry for meat production is at an all-time low, according to the Swedish Poultry Meat Association.

The group claims the presence of Campylobacter in poultry meat in 2019 declined from the year before with a calculated average from sampling of 4.6 percent of positive flocks.

Pia Gustavsson, a veterinarian at the Swedish Poultry Meat Association (Svensk Fagel), said it calculates an average of Campylobacter presence in Swedish poultry for meat production every year.

“The figures for 2019 showed a record low, and the yearly average ended up at only 4.6 percent – halving last year’s figures. This is a huge difference compared to the rest of Europe where there is a large spread in prevalence, and figures of 50 to 80 percent are not uncommon.

“Hygiene in the kitchen plays a vital role to reduce the risk of presence of Campylobacter when handling food. Washing hands, using separate cutting boards for chicken and vegetables as well as heating to at least 70 degrees C (158 degrees F) are simple and great guidelines to follow.”

Campylobacter monitoring program
In 2018, from 4,331 groups bred by members of the Swedish Poultry Meat Association sampled at slaughter, Campylobacter was detected in 8.7 percent of the flocks.

During 2018, 63 samples were also analyzed from chicken bred and slaughtered in slaughterhouses that are not members of the Swedish Bird Protection Infection Program or Animal Care Program. Campylobacter was detected in 24 (38.1 percent) of these flocks.

The Swedish Poultry Meat Association has been trying to reduce the

Flocks positive for Campylobacter by year

presence of Campylobacter in poultry flocks. The ambition of industry is to reach the same low levels as for Salmonella.

More than 30 years ago, the association, Swedish Board of Agriculture, Swedish National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket), Swedish Veterinary Institute (SVA) and Swedish Institute of Infectious Diseases (now Folkhalsomyndigheten) started a monitoring program to reduce prevalence of Campylobacter in Swedish poultry.

Within this program, research and studies are conducted at farm level including sampling to further reduce the number of positive poultry flocks. The advice developed as part of this work mainly focuses on preventive hygiene practices. The number of positive flocks has declined from about 60 percent in 1989 to 4.6 percent in 2019.

Progress has not always been straightforward. An estimated 5,000 more Campylobacter cases than normal were reported in the country between August 2016 and May 2017. Some of these infections were linked to chilled chicken produced by Kronfågel.

The number of flocks carrying Campylobacter varies by season. Prevalence is highest during late summer and autumn.

“We find it gratifying that the industry’s work, mainly the preventive hygiene efforts within the poultry production, has yielded such good results and that the positive trend will continue,” said Karin Åhl, from the Swedish Board of Agriculture.

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