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: Japan wraps up Pacific whale hunt

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Apple's fiscal 3Q earnings top analyst forecasts

8 hours ago

Apple's growth prospects are looking brighter as anticipation builds for the upcoming release of the next iPhone, a model that is expected to cater to consumers yearning for a bigger screen.

Recommended for you

Japan wraps up Pacific whale hunt

6 minutes ago

Japan announced Tuesday that it had wrapped up a whale hunt in the Pacific, the second campaign since the UN's top court ordered Tokyo to halt a separate slaughter in the Antarctic.

Researchers uncover secrets of internal cell fine-tuning

16 minutes ago

New research from scientists at the University of Kent has shown for the first time how the structures inside cells are regulated – a breakthrough that could have a major impact on cancer therapy development.

Getting a jump on plant-fungal interactions

36 minutes ago

Fungal plant pathogens may need more flexible genomes in order to fully benefit from associating with their hosts. Transposable elements are commonly found with genes involved in symbioses.

Algae under threat from invasive fish

46 minutes ago

Tropical fish invading temperate waters warmed as a result of climate change are overgrazing algae, posing a threat to biodiversity and some marine-based industries.

User comments : 0