£4m funding for research into campylobacter

The UK’s leading funding agency for academic research has announced a £4m fund to research campylobacter within the food chain.

The project will bring together 12 independent projects and unite researchers from across scientific disciplines to look at the food poisoning bacteria from field to plate and how best to control it.  

Campylobacter is the leading cause of food poisoning in the UK, and is responsible for causing around 300,000 cases a year in England and Wales, costing the economy up to £600m. The most common source of human infection comes from poultry meat, usually through consumption of under-cooked meat or cross-contamination in the kitchen.

The research is being managed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Defra and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the UK’s leading funding agency for academic research and training in the non-clinical life sciences, as part of the Global Food Security Programme.

It research will concentrate on three main areas, which include investigating key sources of poultry contamination on farms and how this can be minimised, how to adopt approaches of biocontrol of campylobacter during processing, and how the interaction between the biology of the bacteria and the bird compounds the problem.

Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council (BPC) and chair of the joint industry/government Campylobacter Working Group, welcomed the new round of research.

He said: “Campylobacter is very different from other food-borne bacteria. This work is vital to better inform the controls already in place and interventions being trialled on farms and across the production chain. Poultry companies are fully engaged with the researchers and are collaborating on these projects to find more effective interventions against this most difficult organism”

Science Minister David Willetts said: “Tackling the causes of food poisoning is vital for our health and will give the public greater confidence in the British poultry industry, as well as helping to guarantee future food security. These projects will ensure this important task is underpinned by leading-edge, robust science, with a coordinated approach between government agencies and the research community.”

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