Free range ‘no increased infection risk’ for chickens

Apr 11, 2008

Scientists at Oxford University have found that the free-range environment is not a major source for the infection of chickens with a bug responsible for 340,000 cases of food poisoning in the UK every year.

Chicken meat contaminated with the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni is a major cause of food poisoning in humans. This has led to increased biosecurity measures that attempt to limit infection of chickens in intensive, housed conditions. It had been thought that free-range chickens are more at risk because they cannot be protected from outdoor infection sources such as wild birds.

'It was widely thought that free-range chickens were likely to pick up Campylobacter from the free-range environment, particularly wild birds, but none of the evidence we have gathered supports this as a major infection source,’ said Professor Martin Maiden of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology who led the research.

‘If this was the case then you would expect to see free-range chickens sharing genetically similar bacteria with local wild bird populations but our study suggests that this is not the case. It’s good news as it means that not being able to extend comprehensive biosecurity measures to free-range poultry is probably not the threat to human health that had been feared.’

A total of 975 chickens from 64 flocks were sampled over a period of 10 months as part of the research. Wild bird populations in the areas concerned were also studied.

The research was conducted by Professor Martin Maiden, Professor Marian Stamp Dawkins, Dr Frances Colles, Dr Noel McCarthy and Dr Samuel Sheppard of the Department of Zoology and Dr Kate Dingle and Dr Alison Cody of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences at the University of Oxford.

Source: Oxford University

Explore further: Study finds cell division sign posts for chromosomes along microtubule highway

Related Stories

Bugs and slugs ideal houseguests for seagrass health

5 hours ago

Marine "bugs and slugs" make ideal houseguests for valuable seagrass ecosystems. They gobble up algae that could smother the seagrass, keeping the habitat clean and healthy. That's according to results from ...

Using a sounding rocket to help calibrate NASA's SDO

5 hours ago

Watching the sun is dangerous work for a telescope. Solar instruments in space naturally degrade over time, bombarded by a constant stream of solar particles that can cause a film of material to adhere to ...

Recommended for you

Serengeti Park disappearing

2 hours ago

A huge wildebeest herd migrates across the open, parched plains. Dust swirls up from the many hooves pounding the ground, and forms a haze over the landscape. The setting sun gives the scene a golden tinge.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.