Campylobacter risk management

Find out about our Campylobacter risk management and strategy, and download related documents.

Quick facts

MPI has:

  • helped halve foodborne Campylobacter illness since 2006
  • put controls in place for food processors to limit Campylobacter levels
  • developed a new strategy and action plan for 2020 to 2025
  • set a goal to reduce foodborne cases by a further 20% by 2025
  • co-led production of international guidelines for controlling Campylobacter in poultry
  • produced international guidance for verifying Campylobacter control in poultry processing
  • in 2020, published a major case-control study of Campylobacter illness that indicates that 84% of foodborne Campylobacter cases are associated with the chicken meat pathway.

Our strategy is helping reduce rates of Campylobacter

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has a strategy and work plan to manage the risk of foodborne Campylobacter in New Zealand. Since 2006, our strategies have reduced foodborne Campylobacter illness in New Zealand by over 50%.

Campylobacter risk management strategy 2017-2020 [PDF, 261 KB]

Campylobacter Risk Management Strategy [PDF, 42 KB]

Development of the strategy

Cases of Campylobacter illness from food were increasing until 2006. This was partly because people were eating more:

  • poultry meat (like chicken) than in earlier years
  • chilled meat than frozen meat.

This led to our first Campylobacter risk management strategy. This focused on reducing contamination of chicken meat. Since then, we've worked with industry to reduce the risk.

Graphs showing change in Campylobacter illness rates

Graph showing foodborne campylobacteriosis cases per 100,000 people between 2004 (when there were 160 cases per 100,000 people) and 2012 (when there were about 80 cases per 100,000 people).
Foodborne campylobacteriosis has decreased in New Zealand since MPI started targeting it in 2007.
Graph showing foodborne campylobacteriosis cases per 100,000 people between 2012 (when there were 90 cases per 100,000 people) and 2018 (when there were about 75 cases per 100,000 people).
Estimated incidence of foodborne campylobacteriosis between 2012 and 2018.

Information helps us to control Campylobacter

To prioritise our work on Campylobacter, we need to understand the importance of different:

  • sources of Campylobacter
  • ways people get infected.

To do this, we've done a lot of research on the poultry, meat, and milk food chains.

Setting a regulatory limit for chilled poultry carcasses

In 2008, we introduced the Campylobacter performance target (CPT). It measured Campylobacter levels in processed chicken, to check how effectively our measures reduced levels. We still sample Campylobacter to make sure processors are producing food within safe limits. Samples are done through our National Microbiological Database (NMD).

National Microbiological Database (NMD)

Our current strategy and work

We're aiming to reduce foodborne Campylobacter poisoning in New Zealand by 20% by 2025. This goal is part of the Campylobacter Action Plan for 2020-2021.

Campylobacter Action Plan 2020–2021 [PDF, 539 KB]

Campylobacter case control study summary

Source Assigned Campylobacteriosis in New Zealand Study (SACNZS) [PDF, 5.4 MB]

We used a major study as the basis for setting the goal of reducing illness rates by 20%. The study found that more than 80% of foodborne illness cases are probably caused by poultry meat (like chicken). In cities and towns, it's often even higher than 80%.

Our Campylobacter Action Plan mainly focuses on the poultry food chain. It uses a risk-based, farm-to-plate chain approach. The approach identifies, selects, and implements new control measures. These measures will greatly reduce the rate of Campylobacter illness New Zealand.

The action plan first focuses on:

  • improving controls (biosecurity) at farm level
  • improving hygiene during primary processing of food, and re-evaluating the regulatory target for Campylobacter that determines the allowable limit of Campylobacter contamination on chilled chicken carcasses
  • enhancing consumer education.

We'll also continue to investigate other potential food sources. This includes drinking milk and red meat from ruminant species (like cows and sheep).

Campylobacter risk management strategy and work programme 2017–2020 [PDF, 261 KB]

International influence

International food safety standards are coordinated through the Codex Alimentarius Commission. New Zealand and Sweden co-led Codex work to develop the international guidelines for control of Campylobacter and Salmonella in chicken meat.

Guidelines for control of Campylobacter and Salmonella in chicken meat

In 2014, we prepared guidance for best hygienic practice in poultry processing. This was published internationally for other countries to adapt and use.

Example of a microbiological criterion (MC) for verifying the performance of a food safety control system: Campylobacter Performance Target at end of processing of broiler chickens – Science Direct

Find out more

Campylobacter research

Foodborne disease annual reports

Research on sources of foodborne illness

Food risk assessment

Information for poultry farmers

Campylobacter in chicken livers

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Who to contact

If you have questions about our Campylobacter research or our risk management strategy, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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