Blame the consumer, New Zealand style: is high rate of campy due to poor home practices?
Posted: May 25th, 2012 - 12:22pm
New Zealand has a much higher rate of reported campylobacteriosis than the rest of the developed world and it’s because consumers are dumb, not because of high loads of campylobacter entering kitchens. Or that’s what a new paper says; I’ve parsed the abstract, below.
“The two main risk factors identified internationally for campylobacteriosis are, consumption of undercooked chicken and cross-contamination during food preparation.”
With you so far.
“One possible reason is that New Zealanders have poorer home hygiene practices during food preparation than the citizens of other developed countries.”
Why just the home? Isn’t food prepared in a myriad of places like, restaurants, and isn’t the basics of many food safety risk reduction efforts to actually reduce risk: to lower loads of Campylobacter moving from the farm right through to the food service and home kitchen?
“The objective of this study was to investigate cross-contamination during chicken preparation at home as a possible hypothesis to explain the high reported rate of campylobacteriosis.”
That sounds like a great observational study, coupled with microbiological modeling. Except the researcher did this:
“An extensive search of databases of publications concerned with consumer food handling practices or self-reported practices, consumers' knowledge or perception about food safety and consumers' observed practices, was conducted.”
Scream. Relying on other studies of self-reported research is flawed and the conclusions erroneous.
“Personal communication with science groups in New Zealand and the world were also carried out. It was found that in New Zealand there is a lack of data regarding consumer knowledge and studies on handling practices. The few studies conducted in New Zealand were not comprehensive.”
So the data about New Zealand home handlers, already flawed, is worse than usual, yet the researchers write …
“It appears from the findings of this study, that New Zealanders' knowledge of basic food hygiene is lower in comparison to people of other developed countries. For example, New Zealanders scored the lowest in their knowledge about food safety or hygiene.”
That’s not evidence. And awareness doesn’t mean people will actually do it.
“Most of the evidence collected in this study supports the hypothesis that New Zealanders are poorer in home hygiene than people of other developed countries, and this has possibly contributed to New Zealand having the highest rate of campylobacteriosis among developed countries.”
No. It was a foregone conclusion. But that won’t stop politicians and producer/industry groups from citing the work … extensively. And then the researcher will get promoted.