Campylobacter is common in Portuguese chicken. To advise consumers what to do to not get ill, food microbiologists studied how is possible for this bacterium to spread around the kitchen.

The occurrence of Campylobacter spp. in raw chicken samples observed in this study was 77.8% (14 positive samples/18 samples analyzed).

Microbiological analysis confirmed cross contamination events in four kitchens, in each case Campylobacter being transferred from raw chicken to sinks, cutting boards or kitchen cloths, as a consequence of improper food handling practices.

Probably, Campylobacter was also transferred to other places via hands as not all the consumers washed their hands after touching chicken or doing other tasks in the kitchen. Since this foodborne pathogen can survive on different kitchen surfaces or objects, it can be transferred to food that is not thermal treated prior consumption. Campylobacteriosis, which is the disease caused by Campylobacter spp., may occur after ingestion of contaminated food.

In the last years, campylobacteriosis was the most reported zoonosis in Europe. Campylobacter infections in humans generally occur as a result of improper handling and/or consumption of contaminated food, especially poultry meat. The number of cases and the ascendant trend of the disease are worrying the authorities.

The four most important recommendations to consumers

1) Don't do like Mom does ... don't wash the chicken but wash your hands!

Twelve consumers (66.6%) rinsed the chicken meat in the sink. Campylobacter was detected in two of these sinks.

Remarkably, all the elderly participants rinsed the chicken to be cooked, which suggests that this is a traditional habit in Portugal that can be transmitted from one generation to another. This statement is also supported by the fact that some of the younger participants in the study motivated their action as a practice learned from their parents. Other reasons of this food handling practice are related to the place where the chicken was bought, food safety and perception on the meat aspect.

2) Wash thoroughly all utensils and surfaces that come into contact with the raw chicken!

Eight consumers (44.4%) used cutting boards to prepare the chicken. Two of these cutting boards harbored Campylobacter after chicken preparation. If not cleaned properly, cutting boards can spread Campylobacter to other foods.

3) Don’t let kitchen cloths to contact with raw chicken or chicken spills

Campylobacter was detected in a kitchen cloth that directly contacted raw poultry. Use disposable cloths/paper during the cleaning procedures or change the cloths after use!

4) Keep raw chicken away from…

Keep the raw poultry away from ready to eat food products, such as bread and vegetables, while storing and cooking! Prepare your salad before starting chicken preparation!

Consumers’ wrong beliefs with respect to food handling practices could be changed by information campaigns performed with the help of mass media and retail. Generally, inherited beliefs on food preparation are the most difficult to change. “Raising consumers’ awareness with respect to proper handling and cooking of poultry is crucial to decrease the health risk associated with this bacterium” Paula Teixeira

Research details

The research started in October 2017, when three pilot households were visited in Porto, Portugal . The other visits took place between February and April 2018 (15 experimental households). The participants were asked to prepare a meal with chicken and a raw vegetable salad the way they would normally do. During cooking sessions, sociologists filmed the procedure, asking the consumers, at the same time, to explain their food handling practices. Microbiologists were in charge of the poultry samples collection before cooking. They also sampled kitchen surfaces and utensils (kitchen cloth, hand, towel, sponge, cutting, boards, sink) before and after food preparation. Microbiological analysis revealed cross contamination events in 4 kitchens, in which case Campylobacter was transferred from the raw poultry to either cutting boards, sinks or kitchen cloths, as a consequence of improper food handling practices (rinsing the chicken under running tap water before being cooked, contact of the kitchen cloths with the raw meat) or hands hygiene.

Researchers involved

The research was conducted in the frame of SafeConsume by a group of scientists belonging to different research centers from Portugal. The key researchers involved in the study were: Maria João Cardoso (first author; Universidade Católica Portuguesa), Vânia Ferreira (Universidade Católica Portuguesa), Mónica Truninger (Universidade de Lisboa), Rui Maia (Universidade Fernando Pessoa), and Paula Teixeira (corresponding author; Universidade Católica Portuguesa)

Press and public relations speaker SafeConsume

Link to article

Maria João Cardoso, Vânia Ferreira, Mónica Truninger, Rui Maia, Paula Teixeira. 2021. Cross-contamination events of Campylobacter spp. in domestic kitchens associated with consumer handling practices of raw poultry, International Journal of Food Microbiology, 338:108984. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2020.108984

Links to relevant statistics related to Campylobacter infections

More information about the SafeConsume project can be found on

About SafeConsume

The overall objective of SafeConsume is to Reduce health burden from foodborne illnesses. To reach the objective we need to change consumers behavior to reduce exposure to hazards and decrease risk through effective and convenient tools and products, information strategies, education and inclusive food safety policy. The ambition of SafeConsume is to initiate a new and broader approach in future research, innovation, education and food safety policy, widening the space of opportunities for improving food safety. SafeConsume is coordinated by Nofima. The project will run for five years with 32 partners in 14 countries in Europe. The background for the project is the need for new strategies to help consumer mitigate food risks. Hazards in food accounts for about 23 million cases of illness and 5000 death in Europe every year. Nearly 40 % of foodborn outbreaks are domestic/kitchen outbreaks and food safety violations at the consumer stage are common, particularly due to poor hygiene and insufficient heating and cooling. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727580. #safeconsume