Campylobacter restatement shows no conclusive evidence that chlorinated chicken will reduce food poisoning

An expert review of the sources, spread and control of Campylobacter from the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford concludes today that further interventions are needed to reduce the incidents of food poisoning caused by this bacteria – but no one solution will provide perfect control.

Food poisoning caused by Campylobacter contamination results in the greatest number of hospitalisations of any food-borne disease in the UK. Despite falling Campylobacter levels on chicken over the past five years, levels of illness have not changed. 

Key conclusions of the restatement include that there was no clear evidence that long-term use of chlorine rinses, as practiced in the USA, lowered levels of the bacteria or food poisoning caused, and that a broader series of control measures had strong evidence for its overall effectiveness as a package.

The restatement clarifies the scientific evidence available from a variety of sources in order to better inform policy decisions and provide clarity on the broad scientific consensus. This is vital as the prevalence of antibiotic resistant Campylobacter is increasing in the UK and has been designated a ‘high priority’ pathogen by the WHO.  

Professor Sir Charles Godfray, Director of the Oxford Martin School said:

“Governments and the WHO have rightly identified Campylobacter as a key concern; globally it caused around 166 million cases of illness and 37,600 deaths in 2010.  But it’s a complex area with a difficult to navigate evidence base. What we’ve tried to do here, and what we do with all our restatements, is lay out and classify the evidence in easy-to-read, policy-neutral terms to help public health officials, food and farming bodies, and policymakers understand the issue and make their own decisions.”

Professor Matthew Goddard at the University of Lincoln said:

“We can’t be sure why the UK has its peak of camplybacteriosis in May and June - it might be the warmer temperatures accelerating its growth or food-safety issues at barbecues. We do know the biggest risk is poor food hygiene, cross-contamination and undercooked meat – particularly, but not just, chicken. From reviewing evidence from around the world, we see that there is no single processing solution, type of farming, or public education intervention that can solve this.”

To read more about this research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, please visit: