As The Local reported just before Christmas, an unusually high number of people have been struck with campylobacter bacteria since summer, coinciding with an increase in the bacteria among flocks of chicken in Sweden, hence believed to be the main culprit.
“I urge the public to avoid fresh chicken to reduce the risk of contracting an infection from campylobacter,” Signar Mäkitalo, the head physician in charge of infectious diseases in the Gävleborg region, wrote in a press statement issued on Friday.
Swedish authorities such as the Public Health Agency, the Board of Agriculture and the National Food Agency have warned consumers to exercise caution, but have stopped short of urging people to avoid fresh chicken.
“If you follow the advice you need not refrain from eating fresh chicken. Freezing however reduces the amount of bacteria, but doesn't remove them completely,” the National Food Agency writes on its website in an information article about campylobacter.
“We don't want people to get terrified and stop eating Swedish chicken,” the authority wrote to the TT news agency in an e-mail.
However, Mäkitalo wrote in his press statement: “It is unlikely that we in Sweden since last summer suddenly started being careless when cooking chicken, and there must be other reasons behind the increase in the number of cases.”
“As I have not seen any clear reduction in the number of new cases despite the fact that the producers have been informed, I want to make sure that the public has been informed of the problem of fresh chicken,” he added.
The Public Health Agency's advice is to be particularly careful with hand hygiene, washing hands carefully before preparing a meal and directly after handling raw meat or chicken.
Work surfaces should also be kept clean and clean utensils used, with knives and chopping boards washed thoroughly after cutting raw chicken. The meat should always be cooked through.